Why Hinkle Fieldhouse is Considered Such a Special Venue for the NCAA Tournament

Alabama will open play in the NCAA Tournament where the most famous movie about basketball was filmed
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If you didn't grow up in the Midwest, or haven't seen the movie (at least in a while), you may not have made the connection. 

With the entire 2021 NCAA Basketball Tournament being held in the state of Indiana, and mostly around Indianapolis, Alabama will play its first game against Iona at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday.

Why is being called such a historic, legendary and special place to serve as a tournament venue? 

It's the home of "Hoosiers," both the movie and the story it was based on. 

"Hoosiers" came out in 1986, and some consider it the best sports movie ever made. Starring Gene Hackman, it's the story of Hickory High School's state championship run that culminated with beating mighty South Bend Central to win the 1952 Indiana state title.

The story was fiction, though based on Milan High School, the 1954 state champions who beat Muncie Central back when it was still a single-class tournament. 

That title game was played at Hinkle, and the championship game in the movie was also shot there.

One of the most famous scenes occurred when the team arrives at the spacious arena and is awe-struck. Hackman's character Norman Dale pulls out a tape measure and has the players check the distance from the foul line to the rim.

‘’I think you’ll find it’s the exact same measurements as our gym back in Hickory,’’ Dale said.

Fans across the country will argue the point, but the two most legendary high school state tournaments in the United States are probably Indiana basketball and Minnesota hockey.  

Consequently, Hinkle Fieldhouse has been called the cathedral of Hoosier hoops hysteria, or more simply the center of the basketball world.  

Just don't expect the Crimson Tide, which practiced at the site Thursday, to be in awe. 

“Based on what I think they watch, based on that my guess would be probably about one or two (have seen the movie),” Alabama coach Nate Oats said about his players. .

You can be certain that someone brought a tape measure, though. 

More on Hinkle Fieldhouse

From the Butler website about where its men's basketball, women's basketball and volleyball teams play:

"The original construction of Butler Fieldhouse was part of a massive project designed to give Butler one of the finest athletic plants in the nation. The project was financed by a corporation of 41 prominent and farsighted Indianapolis businessmen. Completion of the Fieldhouse was guaranteed when Butler signed a lease agreement with the Indiana High School Athletic Association allowing the high school state tournament to be played in the massive new facility. Butler’s association with the IHSAA continued from 1928 to 1971, with a brief interruption during the war years, 1943-45.

"Butler played its first basketball game in the Fieldhouse on March 7, 1928, defeating Notre Dame 21-13, in overtime. Since the Fieldhouse was not entirely completed at that time, the building dedication was held off until December 21, 1928. The name of the facility was changed in 1966 from Butler Fieldhouse to Hinkle Fieldhouse in honor of Butler’s legendary coach and athletic director Paul D. “Tony” Hinkle, who built the University’s athletic fame over nearly half a century."

Also: "When the Fieldhouse was originally constructed, it was the largest basketball arena in the United States, and it retained that distinction for more than 20 years. Renovation in the early 1990’s reduced the seating capacity from 15,000 to 11,043, and later it was reduced to 10,000. The current capacity after the most recent renovation is 9,100. The Fieldhouse was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987."