The NCAA had no choice but to cancel the 2020 women’s and men’s basketball tournaments because of the … well, you know.
It was an unprecedented decision because of the money March Madness itself (tickets, television revenue) brings to the NCAA.
Even with the country still dealing with a raging pandemic, there was no way the bean counters in Indianapolis were going to go two years without a tournament and all the revenue it rakes in.
As a result, the NCAA decided to do what several other leagues have done and opted to blow a bubble.
— NCAA Final Four (@FinalFour) January 4, 2021
As was expected in many quarters, the NCAA announced today that the entirety of the 68-team men’s tournament will be held in Indianapolis and the central Indiana region. It is somewhat appropriate for two reasons. One – Indiana is arguably the premier basketball state in the country (even though North Carolina and Kentucky stake strong claims as well). Also, the NCAA’s headquarters is located in Indianapolis.
The list of venues include two stadia that may be familiar to WNBA and Indiana Fever fans – Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Hinkle Fieldhouse. Bankers Life Fieldhouse has been the long-time home court of the Fever for its 20-plus seasons in the WNBA. Hinkle is on the campus of Butler University and was slated to be the home venue for the 2020 Fever season before the pandemic relocated the entirety of the season to the IMG Academy bubble in Florida.
Prior to the 2020 season, the Fever announced it will play its next few seasons – including 2021 and part of 2022 at Hinkle Fieldhouse while Bankers Life undergoes renovations.
🚨 TOURNAMENT UPDATE 🚨
In 49 states, it’s just basketball. But this is Indiana!
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) January 4, 2021
Women’s basketball fans are still waiting for official word on the status of the 2021 women’s tournament which is also expected to follow a similar “bubble” format as what was announced today on the men’s side of things.
The 2021 NCAA Women’s Final Four was already scheduled to be held in San Antonio, but a report from the Associated Press’ Doug Feinberg hinted that the entire tournament would be held in central Texas.
More than likely, the AT&T Center – the former home of the San Antonio (Silver) Stars – would be one of the venues utilized for the women’s version of March Madness.
The report also revealed that games could be held as far away as Austin because of the limited hotel space a location such as San Antonio presents. Austin was already slated to host one set of tournament regionals along with Spokane, Albany and Cincinnati.
Bankers Life is not the only WNBA arena that will blow a bubble for a college basketball event. Late last year, the Connecticut Sun’s Mohegan Sun Arena hosted Bubbleville, a multi-day event put together by the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Gazelle Group that spanned 11 days, featured 46 games and hosted a number of college hoops teams.
Bubbleville was slated to host a number of premier women’s basketball programs, including UConn and Mississippi State, but both backed out due to Covid-19 complications. Another major women’s hoops program, Louisville, still took part, that included a game where they defeated DePaul 116-75 on the same night that the New York Liberty had won the WNBA Draft lottery for the second consecutive year.