NCAA Should Keep Tournament Bubble

One centralized location for the Tournament could be a financial boon for the NCAA

For the first time this season, the NCAA held both the Men’s and Women’s Division I Basketball Tournaments around one location this year. The Men’s Tournament was anchored in Indianapolis, with the women’s tournament anchored in San Antonio.

The creation of these regionalized bubbles were, like many things, a creation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to try to minimize the exposure of personnel to the spread of the virus. But like many things America has improvised over the course of the last year, I think the NCAA should consider keeping the regionalized effort.

A regionalized NCAA Tournament creates an opportunity for the NCAA to bring basketball fans from around the country to one regional location for the entirety of the tournament. It ensures that more fans are at each game. It would give fans and opportunity to go to multiple games at multiple sites over the course of each weekend of the tournament. It provides more expansive opportunities for bigger, better-attended fan events that cover the course of the entire two weeks of the tournament.

Think about this year. The NCAA managed to fit five courts in the city limits of Indianapolis. They were joined by Mackey Arena in West Lafayette (70 miles) and Assembly Hall in Bloomington (50 miles). For the women, they had five courts in San Antonio, with additional courts in San Marcos (50 miles) and Austin (80 miles). Both tournaments were within a 90-minute drive of all venues. t allows maximum flexibility for the teams, for staff, and for the NCAA’s broadcast partners.

There are some potential drawbacks. The NCAA would be limited in the number of places they could hold the tournament, at least for the men. Current NCAA rules state that the Men’s Final Four must be held in a covered venue with 50,000 or more seats. Why the NCAA insists on playing basketball in cavernous football stadiums only makes sense when you considering it allows them to sell a massive number of tickets to the event. The NCAA is already limiting the Final Four locations, but adopting this plan without changing the Final Four rules would keep the men’s tournament out of stalwart NCAA Tournament cities like Dayton, Kansas City, Louisville, and New York City. They could still have the women’s tournament.

The NCAA would be wise to at least consider this idea. It takes the NCAA Tournament from a primarily TV property to a two-week-long carnival, a destination event similar to the Olympics. It would be good for the NCAA and good for College Basketball.

Theoretical NCAA Tournament Regional Bubble Locations (in addition to Indianapolis and San Antonio)

  1. Atlanta: Mercedes Benz Stadium, State Farm Arena, Forbes Arena, Gateway Center Arena, McCamish Pavillion, James Brown Arena (Augusta), Stegeman Coliseum (Athens)

  2. Dallas: AT&T Stadium (Arlington), American Airlines Arena, Ford Center at the Star (Frisco), Dickies Arena (Fort Worth), Comerica Center (Frisco), College Park Center (Arlington), Moody Coliseum

  3. Detroit: Ford Field, Little Caesars Arena, Crisler Arena (Ann Arbor), Convocation Center (Ypsilanti), Breslin Events Center (East Lansing), Van Andel Arena (Grand Rapids), Van Noord Arena (Grand Rapids)

  4. Houston: NRG Stadium, Toyota Center, Fertitta Center, NRG Arena, Beaumont Civic Center, Tudor FieldhouseDelmar Fieldhouse

  5. Las Vegas: Allegiant Stadium, Thomas & Mack Center, Orleans Arena, MGM Grand Arena, Mandalay Bay Events Center, T-Mobile Arena, Henderson Event Center

  6. Los Angeles: SoFi Stadium, Staples Center, Honda Center, Long Beach Arena, Pauley Pavilion, Galen Center, Bren Events Center (Irvine)

  7. Miami: loanDepot Park, FTX Arena, Watsco Center, BB&T Center (Sunrise) FIU Arena, FAU Arena (Boca Raton)

  8. Milwaukee: American Family Field, Fiserv Forum, UW–Milwaukee Panther Arena, Menominee Nation Arena (Oshkosh), Kohl Center (Madison), Wisconsin Field House (Madison)

  9. Minneapolis: USBank Stadium, Target Center, Williams Center, XCel Energy Center (St. Paul), Mayo Clinic Health System Event (Mankato), CenterAMSOIL Arena (Duluth)

  10. New Orleans: Mercedes Benz Superdome, Smoothie King Center, Lakefront Arena, Devlin Fieldhouse, Maravich Assembly Center (Baton Rouge), Cajundome (Lafayette) FG Clark Activity Center (Baton Rouge)

  11. Phoenix: State Farm Stadium, Phoenix Suns Arena, Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Findlay Toyota Center (Prescott Valley), Wells Fargo Arena (Tempe) Gila River Arena (Glendale), Equidome Arena (Scottsdale)

  12. Seattle: TMobile Park, Tacoma Dome, Climate Pledge Arena, Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Angel of the Winds Arena (Everett), ShoWare Center (Renton)

  13. St. Louis: Dome at America's Center, Enterprise Center, Family Arena (St. Charles), Chaifetz Arena, Sam M. Vadalabene Center (Edwardsville, IL)

  14. Syracuse: Carrier Dome, War Memorial, Blue Cross Arena (Rochester), Times Union Center (Albany), KeyBank Center (Buffalo), Adirondack Bank Center (Utica), SEFCU Arena (Albany)

  15. Tampa Bay: Tropicana Field (St. Petersburg), Yuengling Center (Tampa), Amelie Arena (Tampa), Amway Center (Orlando), Addition Financial Arena (Orlando), Expo Hall (Tampa)