NCAA to allow limited fans at men's basketball tournament

Henry Bushnell
·2-min read
Virginia fans cheer during the second half in the championship of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament against Texas Tech, Monday, April 8, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Virginia fans cheer during the second half in the championship of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament against Texas Tech, Monday, April 8, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Thousands of fans will be allowed to attend the 2021 NCAA men's basketball tournament next month after the NCAA announced Friday that it would open arenas at 25% capacity.

The entire tournament will be held at six sites in Indiana. The NCAA said its decision on fan capacity "was made in conjunction with state and local health authorities due to the COVID-19 pandemic."

Fans will be required to adhere to physical distancing protocols, and "must wear face coverings," according to the NCAA.

The actual number of fans in attendance at certain games could vary significantly by venue. One of the six venues is Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts, which can hold approximately 70,000 people for basketball games. So in theory, some 17,000 fans could attend the Final Four. (Lucas Oil will host the last three rounds of the tournament, beginning with the Elite Eight.)

Elsewhere, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers, which will host games through the Sweet 16, could welcome more than 4,000 fans per game. Purdue's Mackey Arena could be in the 3,000 range for the First Four and first round. Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse and the Indiana Farmers Coliseum could host around 2,000 spectators.

Bloomington's Assembly Hall could host more than 4,000 fans per the NCAA's restrictions, but the University of Indiana has said that only "up to 500 spectators," including some "vaccinated medical personnel and first responders from Monroe County," will attend. Assembly Hall is slated to host First Four and first round games.

Some of the 25% capacity at each venue will be essential staffers and family members of players and coaches.

The tournament begins Thursday, March 18 with the First Four. The first round begins Friday, March 19. Selection Sunday is March 14. This year's schedule is slightly different than a typical March Madness schedule.

The NCAA has not yet announced fan capacity plans for its women's basketball tournament, which will be held next month in and around San Antonio.

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