The 2020-21 college basketball season is set to begin in just over a week, and teams are already struggling with the logistics of trying to put on a season, in particular the challenges of making non-conference games happen while each conference has different protocols in place for testing. As such, some conferences have considered moving to a conference-only schedule (as the big college football conferences did) in order to at least have uniform rules in place for teams with all of their opponents.
The lack of a nationwide, NCAA protocol is among the biggest difficulties facing each conference, but that will be the case once 68 teams make it to March Madness. On Monday, the NCAA announced that this year’s tournament will be moved from its usual format of playing at various regional sites across the country to one single site for the entirety of the month-long event, playing in Indianapolis and the surrounding area. This will, in effect, help the NCAA produce a bubble-like environment and, they hope, allow for teams to come in, go through testing, and be able to play throughout the tournament in one place to mitigate the risk of the virus interfering with games.
“We have learned so much from monitoring other successful sporting events in the last several months, and it became clear it’s not feasible to manage this complex championship in so many different states with the challenges presented by the pandemic,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball in a statement. “However, we are developing a solid plan to present a safe, responsible and fantastic March Madness tournament unlike any other we’ve experienced.”
The plan is to follow the same schedule as initially planned, just playing in the Indianapolis area at various gyms — such as the legendary Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler — for every round, including the First Four, with the Final Four still taking place April 3-5.