How it will look in Indianapolis

How it will look in Indianapolis

Gleeson’s guarantees: Best March Madness bets for the first round on Friday

SportsPulse: Scott Gleeson picked Virginia to win it all in 2019. He called Loyola-Chicago as Cinderella in 2018. Now he’s ready to give you his guarantees for Friday’s action.


For the first time since its inception in 1939, the entire men’s NCAA Division I basketball tournament – better known by the nickname “March Madness” – will be held in a single region, Indianapolis and central Indiana, amid COVID-19 safety protocols a limited number of fans. Indianapolis, which was already slated for the 2021 Final Four, started the full tournament in January.

The single-elimination tournament, which is usually distributed in regional locations across the US, brings 68 teams to central Indiana to compete for a national title. Planning to limit the tournament to one area began last year after COVID-19 forced the 2020 tournament to be canceled. If the tournament is held in a single area, the NCAA can centralize venues, practice and meeting rooms, hotels, and medical assistance.

Indiana will host the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, with most of the 67 games taking place in Indianapolis.Illustration by Stephen J. Beard / USA TODAY

Where will they play?

The tournament’s 67 games will be played at six venues: the Mackey Arena at Purdue University in West Lafayette, the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall at Indiana University in Bloomington, the Hinkle Fieldhouse, the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, the Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the Lucas Oil Stadium. Two courts will be set up at Lucas Oil Stadium, but the games will not be played at the same time.

Lucas Oil Stadium, the only venue for the tournament after Sweet Sixteen, is connected by air-conditioned walkways to the Indiana Convention Center and a constellation of downtown hotels with more than 4,700 rooms (the NCAA required around 2,500 rooms for athletes, coaches and Athletes trainers, civil servants and employees). The congress center will house practice areas, training areas and meeting rooms for qualified teams.

What will the tournament format look like?

For now, don’t worry: the familiar bracket format we know and love will remain (even if your bracket predictions don’t). With no four geographic regions to consider this year, the NCAA will use a model called “S-Curve” to determine who is playing where – known as “seeding” – that plays more to a team’s overall strength than its location. The parentheses were announced on March 14th, selection Sunday. Here is a list of tournament round dates and locations:


Security protocols

While not as rigorous as the Orlando NBA bubble last summer, security measures will be closely monitored for what the NCAA calls “Tier 1” participants – all players, coaches and staff. Here’s a general look at what the participating teams can expect:

What about the fans?

The NCAA announced in mid-February that only a limited number of fans could participate in the tournament. After consultation with state and local health authorities, the tournament allows for capacity of up to 25% with physical distancing. Capacity includes all athletes, coaches, staff, family members of the athletes and coaches of the participating teams, as well as a limited number of fans.

“While we know it won’t be the same for anyone, we look forward to providing the athletes, coaches and fans with an unforgettable experience in a once-in-a-lifetime tournament,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of basketball, said in one Explanation: “After the cancellation of the 2020 tournament, we are happy to welcome back some fans to all rounds of the Division I men’s basketball tournament.”

SOURCE NCAA; VisitIndy; and USA TODAY and IndyStar coverage.

Published on March 18, 2021 at 11:59 UTC
Updated March 18, 2021 at 11:59 UTC