Yes! NCAA Tournament 'bubble' belongs in Indianapolis
Indianapolis is a basketball city inside a basketball state.
There’s a reason the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame’s motto is repeated so frequently around here, “In 49 states, it’s just basketball. This is Indiana.” It’s because it is true.
Indiana and Purdue fans might be able to get along in the workplace or on a golf course, or in cheering on the Colts and the Pacers, but for at least 2 nights every winter, battle lines are drawn. The fans of Indiana and Purdue, and Notre Dame and Butler and Ball State and many others, are a prideful group. The same can be said of the comradery of high school sports communities in Indiana.
The sport means something more.
So when the NCAA announced it was considering relocating its entire 67-game basketball tournament to the City of Indianapolis and perhaps the surrounding area, the news was met, at least by fans in the state, with excitement.
What better place to play?
The argument for Indianapolis makes a ton of sense. First, Indianapolis is a big-event town. It’s a frequent host for NCAA Tournament games. The Final Four was already slated for the Circle City in early April, so there wouldn’t have to be much change to the planning of the NCAA’s biggest spring event. Instead, it’s about securing venues for the previous 2 weekends and that might be doable. Officials in the city and state will work to see if the details can be hammered out. But in our current pandemic state — it remains undetermined where we might be as a country with COVID-19 in March and April of next year, but best to plan ahead — this might be the best option.
The city has the infrastructure for hosting a 68-team NCAA Tournament “bubble,” from basketball venues to hotels and restaurants all within a few block radius. Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home to the Pacers and Fever, could be a host, but so could the Colts’ home at Lucas Oil Stadium — it might be able to hold upwards of 10 basketball courts, assuming fans won’t be invited in — and the nearby Convention Center, which could host more, if needed. Historic Hinkle Fieldhouse is a stone’s throw from downtown. There are enough high school gymnasiums around Indy to serve as practice venues, so teams wouldn’t be fighting for space.
Kudos for the NCAA for thinking ahead — and thinking boldly — on this one.
You couldn’t say that this fall, when college football was a rudderless ship sailing through an uncharted pandemic. Nobody had a plan. Or, maybe better said, everyone had a plan, but no one could agree. And what has been left is a college football season where the No. 1 team in the country has played 6 games and the No. 3 team has played 3. And that saw a dozen game cancellations last week and might see a dozen more Saturday. The Big Ten started, then stopped, then postponed, then restarted. It was a mess.
The NCAA is preparing ahead on this one, wanting to make sure that its premier sporting event can take place. Unlike what happened a few months ago — man, that seems like both yesterday and years ago — when the tournament folded at the last moment, only days before Selection Sunday, when the pandemic was only starting to come into focus. There was nothing that could be done then, but now with months to prepare, hopefully the powers can get it done.
And hopefully right here in the heartland of hoops.
Bring on the Madness.