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2021 NCAA Tournament to be relocated, scrubbing games at Little Caesars Arena

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

There will be no NCAA Tournament games at Little Caesars Arena in March.

Those games were scrapped Monday when the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, in an effort to conduct the NCAA Tournament this spring as the nation grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, announced the relocation of 13 predetermined preliminary round sites for the tournament.

The 2021 NCAA Tournament could be played in one location.

Included in that group were first- and second-round games scheduled to be played in Detroit on March 18 and March 20.

“We fully support and understand the NCAA's decision to relocate the 13 predetermined preliminary round sites for the 2021 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship due to COVID-19,” the Detroit Sports Commission said in a statement released Monday. “The highest priority of the Detroit Sports Commission is public health and safety and we know the NCAA is taking all appropriate measures possible to best protect participants, employees, volunteers and all others involved in the hosting of the tournament.

"The Detroit Sports Commission remains committed to welcoming future NCAA championship events in our community.”

Little Caesars Arena hosted first- and second-round games in 2018 and is scheduled to host the Midwest Regional in 2024.

As for this year, though, the committee is making the move, doing its best to ensure there is a tournament. After the NCAA Tournament was canceled last spring at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, conducting a tournament for the upcoming season became vital, especially considering the financial impact it would have on the NCAA and college basketball programs across the country.

That led to the committee’s decision announced Monday. According the NCAA, preliminary discussions have begun with the state of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis to host the tournament. The Final Four was scheduled to be played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

“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,” Mitch Barnhart, chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee and University of Kentucky athletics director said in a statement.

“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.”

The decision was the latest blow for Detroit when it comes to hosting NCAA championships.

Little Caesars Arena was set to host the Frozen Four in April, but that event was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. And in a bit of a surprise, when the NCAA announced future championship sites in October, Detroit did not get another Frozen Four to make up for this season. The 2023-26 semifinals and finals sites are Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont and North Dakota.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau