NCAA Releases Updated Format For 2021 March Madness Tournament

After announcing that the entirety of the NCAA Tournament would take place within the state of Indianapolis, the NCAA announced that more changes were coming to March Madness' typical schedule
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It's been five years since Utah basketball got to take part in the NCAA Tournament.

It was back in 2016 when Utah was led by Kyle Kuzma, Jordan Loveridge and Jakob Poetl, the Utes fell in the Pac-12 championship game but advanced to the NCAA Tournament. After securing a victory over No. 14 Fresno State in the opener, the No. 3 seeded Utes fell to No. 11 Gonzaga in the round of 32.

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While it's still unknown if the Utes will be a part of this year's 'March Madness' — and with A LOT of work still to be done to make that happen — the NCAA Tournament will be moving forward with or without them.

Hoping to have the tournament take place this upcoming March/April after having to cancel last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA announced that the entire 'March Madness' tournament would take place in the state of Indiana.

“This is a historic moment for NCAA members and the state of Indiana,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said two weeks ago. “We have worked tirelessly to reimagine a tournament structure that maintains our unique championship opportunity for college athletes. The reality of today’s announcement was possible thanks to the tremendous leadership of our membership, local authorities and staff.”

According to the statement released by the NCAA...

"The NCAA is partnering with a local health provider to administer COVID-19 testing within the controlled environment for players, coaching staffs, administrators and officials. The Marion County Health Department has approved medical protocols shared by the NCAA and will continue collaborating with the NCAA leading up to and during the championship."

Jan 11, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak instructs guard Pelle Larsson (3) in the first half against the Colorado Buffaloes at Jon M. Huntsman Center.

The NCAA then announced on Tuesday afternoon its updated scheduling format for the annual March Madness tournament. 

The biggest change is coming on the dates of the games. Instead of being able to stream games on Thursdays and Fridays while at work, the first four rounds of the tournament will run on from Friday-Monday on consecutive weekends.

Selection Sunday will take place on March 14, which will be followed by the 'First Four' games on Thursday, March 18. The tournament will then get underway beginning on Friday, March 19.

NCAA Tournament Schedule
*First Four — Thursday, March 18
*First Round — Friday, March 19/Saturday, March 20
*Second Round — Sunday, March 21/Monday, March 22
*Sweet 16 — Saturday, March 27/Sunday, March 28
*Elite Eight — Monday, March 29/Tuesday, March 30
*Final Four — Saturday, April 3
*National Championship — Monday, April 5

Jan 9, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes forward Mikael Jantunen (20) reacts with forward Timmy Allen (1) after a basket in the final seconds of the first half against the Oregon Ducks at Jon M. Huntsman Center.

According to the NCAA, the majority of the tournament will be held in Indianapolis, with Ball State, Butler, the Horizon League, Indiana, IUPUI and Purdue hosting.

Practices will take place at the Indiana Convention Center as multiple socially-distanced courts will be set up. What makes the convention center ideal is that it has protected walkways that are connected to Marriott properties, which is where the majority of the teams will be staying. Teams will be housed on specific floors with dedicated meeting and dining rooms specifically designed to serve as socially-distanced hosts.

Games will be played on two courts inside Lucas Oil Stadium (not at the same time), as well as Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Mackey Arena in West Lafayette and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington.

“The 2021 version of March Madness will be one to remember, if for no other reason than the uniqueness of the event,” said NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt. “With the direction of the Men’s Basketball Committee, we are making the most of the circumstances the global pandemic has presented. We’re fortunate to have neighbors and partners in Indianapolis and surrounding communities who not only love the game of basketball as much as anyone else in the country but have a storied history when it comes to staging major sporting events.

“This is going to be complicated and difficult; there’s no question about that. We appreciate the collaboration among the Men’s Basketball Committee and staff, our hosts and local organizers, the staffs at each practice and competition venue, and our broadcast and corporate partners. We will all pull together and stage a terrific national championship.”

As per the usual, all games will be broadcast through CBS Sports or Turner Sports, which will include CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV.

The Final Four will be held on April 3 with the national championship to be played on April 5, with all three games being held at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Dec 31, 2020; Los Angeles, California, CA; Utah Utes guard Alfonso Plummer (25) controls the ball against the UCLA Bruins during the second half at Pauley Pavilion.

It's unknown at this moment if fans will be permitted to attend, but there is hope among NCAA circles that a limited number will be granted at each facility. However the NCAA will allow a limited number of family members of each team's student-athletes and coaches to attend the games.

"The NCAA also is working with the city and state to promote “Mask Madness,” an initiative to promote health and safety by practicing social distancing and wearing a mask," the press release said. "As part of this program, the NCAA will donate thousands of masks throughout the state leading up to the tournament."