The following story was written by a student on the staff of The Jaguar Times as part of Hilliard Bradley High School’s Journalism Production course.
by Eric Vah, Sports Editor
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic impacting teams across the country, the 2021 March Madness tournament will be played entirely in Indianapolis, Indiana in a format similar to the bubble that the NBA and WNBA implemented in July. The tournament will have six venues hosting games this March: Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, home of the IUPUI Jaguars, and Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse. In addition to the four Indianapolis venues, Purdue’s Mackey Arena in West Lafayette and Indiana’s Assembly Hall in Bloomington will host games.
NCAA officials said that the tournament isn’t entirely played in a bubble due to the use of the two venues outside Indianapolis. However, they said it will be similar to a bubble as every team will use the Indiana Convention Center as a practice facility and will stay in hotels around the venues in Indianapolis.
The biggest and most important thing for the tournament is what they will have to do if a team has an outbreak and can’t play in the tournament. As of right now, the NCAA officials said details about having replacement teams and the handling of a positive test are still being discussed, but the idea of replacement teams and a procedure to handle positive tests seem inevitable with the pandemic still looming large over the nation.
Some other vital things regarding how the 2021 tournament will work is the amount of teams playing, the selection process, and whether or not there will be fans. As of right now, the amount of teams playing stays the same at 68 and the selection process remains the same as previous years. However, while there hasn’t been any official decision on whether or not non-family-member fans can attend games, it seems the NCAA is more focused on playing the tournament than fans attending.
Overall, there aren’t many concerns on a single-destination tournament this year. Most coaches, players, and fans are just happy to have the tournament back. Plus,the NBA, WNBA, and others have proven that a bubble-like format works in the middle of a pandemic, so this is the safer option. The NCAA can’t afford to cancel the tournament, as it would hurt them financially and devastate the players, coaches, and fans. Selection Sunday is March 14, and the Jaguar Times looks forward to it!