How A Single-site NCAA Tournament Could Create A Fairer Bracket (

The NCAA Tournament will look way different in 2021, although at least it’s happening at all after COVID-19 forced its cancelation last spring. Earlier this week, the NCAA announced that the 2021 tournament will be held in a single location, and the governing body is negotiating to have it take place in Indianapolis.

That changes a whole lot, as there will be no pseudo-homecourt advantage for higher seeds in early rounds — for instance, Duke and North Carolina can’t play in Charlotte or Greensboro, N.C. It’s unclear what the spectator situation will be next spring due to the difficulty of predicting the pandemic’s course.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi says that the change will have a huge impact on what the bracket ends up looking like. From a competitive standpoint, the tournament could be fairer than usual.

“This will be a fairly big deal in terms of bracketing,” Lunardi

on Twitter. “Much more flexibility for the Committee as well as the chance to place more teams in true seed list order.”

The NCAA’s desire to keep teams close-ish to home can make for unbalanced regions at times. For instance, the No. 1 and No. 6 overall seeds could both be placed in the West Region if both are from the West Coast. That would make for a difficult quarter of the bracket and wouldn’t necessarily be preferable to either team.

This season, Lunardi is saying that won’t be as much of an issue. There’s no reason the No. 1 overall seed can’t be paired with the No. 8 overall seed, No. 4 with No. 5 and so on. Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnart is the chair of this year’s selection committee and explained the decision in a press release.

“My committee colleagues and I did not come lightly to the difficult decision to relocate the preliminary rounds of the 2021 tournament, as we understand the disappointment 13 communities will feel to miss out on being part of March Madness next year,” Barnhart said. “With the University of Kentucky slated to host first- and second-round games in March, this is something that directly impacts our school and community, so we certainly share in their regret. The committee and staff deeply appreciate the efforts of all the host institutions and conferences, and we look forward to bringing the tournament back to the impacted sites in future years.”

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Although all of the games might be held in Indianapolis, it’s obviously too big of a tournament to play them all in one arena. It’s unclear where the games will be held, although the Indiana Pacers’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse are a couple of obvious candidates. 

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