By Caleb Elliott
2020 was the first time in the tournament’s history that there was a year in which March Madness wasn’t played. With March already here, the only thing on a college basketball fan’s mind is the return of the Big Dance.
This January it was announced that Indianapolis would host all 67 games of the Men’s Division I College Basketball Tournament and will be using multiple venues in the surrounding areas.
The first four will play Thursday, March 18 at Mackey Arena, home of the Purdue Boilermakers basketball team, and Assembly Hall, home of the Indiana Hoosiers basketball team.
Rounds 1 and 2 then will be played starting Friday, March 19 and finishing on Monday, March 22 with Assembly Hall, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, and Lucas Oil Stadium all hosting games.
The Sweet 16 round will be March 27-28. These games will be played at either Bankers Life Fieldhouse or Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Elite 8 round will be March 29-30, the Final Four will be April 3, and the National Championship will be April 5. All of these games will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium.
According to ESPN, Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts football team, will supply two courts, but will only use one court at a time in order to give more time for staff members to clean and sanitize the different courts and to help move games along without delay.
The IHSAA Boys’ High School basketball tournament usually plays through around the same time as the NCAA tournament. Both tournaments are using Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers basketball team, for their tournaments.
Principal Chris Conley, who also is the president of the IHSAA Board of Directors, said the IHSAA has moved the high school state championship a week later than usual due to the use of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Instead of having the state finals on March 27 they have pushed it back a week to April 3.
According to CBS Sports the NCAA has booked five hotels (JW Marriott, The Marriott, The Westin, The Hyatt Regency, and Le Meridien) in downtown Indianapolis to house players and coaches in the tournament.
Each team will be assigned 34 rooms. Each person will have their own room and will not be allowed to share. This will help decrease the risk of exposures to others and limit contact tracing around the hotel.
Over 11 million people tune in or travel to watch how the tournament plays out. Some of these include students and teachers here at our school. With the 2021 edition of March Madness being played in Indianapolis this will be the third Final Four in the last 11 years played here. For many fans like junior Mallory Schwer this is a dream come true in an unprecedented time.
Schwer is an avid Purdue Boilermaker fan which extends as far as knowing head coach Matt Painter, who is good friends with her father. Purdue’s Mackey Arena is one of the venues hosting March Madness.
Two years ago, Schwer was able to attend the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds at Louisville’s KFC Yum Center where she saw her Purdue Boilermakers almost make it to the Final Four.
Earlier in that season, Schwer was able to attend the Purdue Senior Night where she saw two of her favorite players (Grady Eifert and Ryan Cline) play their last regular season game at Mackey Arena.
“I was upset to see two of my favorite players leave, but at the end of Grady’s speech he said, ‘See you in the Final Four,’” Schwer said. “I told my dad to cancel my tickets for Florida because we were going to follow Purdue to the Final Four.”
Schwer has been watching the tournament for as long as she can remember and can’t fathom the tournament being played with a limited number of fans.
With a decrease in cases in Indiana, the state and NCAA are allowing 25 percent occupancy during games. According to the NCAA capacity will include all participants, essential staff and up to six family members of each participating team’s athletes and coaches and a reduced number of fans. All fans must wear face coverings and physically distance during the event. Thorough cleaning, disinfecting and safety measures will be a priority in all venues.
“Fans play an intense role in any game being played,” Schwer said. “I think not having fans has been a factor in many of our (Purdue’s) games, so I only assume it will affect the atmosphere for the games being played during the tournament.”
Indianapolis hosted the 2015 Final Four and it dramatically helped the city’s economy. With three of the four teams being less than five hours away it brought in over 70,000 spectators to watch. Indy made well over the expected $70.8 million which was thanks to the mass of fans.
When the NCAA cancelled the March Madness tournament last spring they lost over $850 million from media and venues. The NCAA gets a majority of its revenue from March Madness, so the tournament had to be played this year.
Even though fans will be limited, players will be in a bubble, and hotels will be closed off to the media, this year is sure to be a great tournament. With many teams finding their stride late in the season no one knows who will make it to the Final Four.
Head basketball coach Mark Detweiler believes that even with a limited number of fans players will still feel like the game is a normal environment.
“I think players have adjusted to that by now,” Detweiler said. “Actually, if we do have 25 percent attendance, that will actually feel somewhat normal in terms of game atmosphere.”
Both Schwer and Detweiler are excited for the upcoming tournament even if they can’t be in person this year.
“March Madness is such a big part of so many people’s spring time,” Detweiler said. “After losing it last year, I do think it will be a highly viewed event.”
Picks for Winning the 2021 Championship
- Mr. Cleland – Florida State
- Gaige Winchester – North Carolina
- Adam Navarro – Gonzaga
- Mallory Schwer – Purdue
- Blake Jones – Illinois
- Palmer Samuels – Illinois
- Cody Howard – Gonzaga
- Jared Hart – Illinois
- Brady Samuels – Purdue
- Trevor Edgerton — Iowa
- Justin Burcham — Illinois
- Carter King — Ohio State
- Braxton Edwards – Gonzaga
- Chase Davis – Michigan
- Mr. Overholt – Baylor