MICHAEL MAROT - AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Big Ten Conference announced Tuesday that its men's basketball tournament will move from Chicago to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, the site of this year's Final Four.
The tournament will be played March 10-14 just a few blocks away from Bankers Life Fieldhouse where the women's tourney will take place the same week. Big Ten officials see the advantages of Indianapolis as a tournament site, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The walkable hotels and restaurants, nearby venues and city’s web of skywalks provide a better opportunity of keeping players, coaches and staff members healthy.
“Hosting both the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in the same city allows for cohesive testing and medical protocols for both events, as well as centralized accommodations surrounding the competition venues," the Big Ten said. It said the league planned to return to Chicago in 2023.
It's going to be a busy time for Indianapolis.
The Horizon League already was scheduled to use Indiana Farmers Coliseum at the state fairgrounds to host the conclusion of it's men's and women's tournaments March 8-9, but then things really pick up.
Local leaders have spent two months scrambling to accommodate the NCAA, which announced last month that all 67 men's tourney games will be played in Indianapolis and its surrounding communities.
The coliseum, Lucas Oil Stadium, historic Hinkle Fieldhouse and Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the NBA's Indiana Pacers and WNBA's Indiana Fever, will host most of the games. Assembly Hall at Indiana University and Mackey Arena at Purdue, both about one hour from downtown Indy, are scheduled to host the other games.
The Big Ten tourney move had been expected.
“I think it makes sense,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said recently. “It’s practical for the teams that are moving on (to the NCAA Tournament), and I think Indianapolis being where everything is going to be held would make some sense if that were to happen.”
Indianapolis was the site of last year's Big Ten tourney, too, and the pandemic interrupted it as Michigan and Rutgers were warming up for the first of four games.
Now the Big Ten is returning to a city that has hosted 11 of the previous 23 men's tournaments and 23 of the league's 26 women's tournaments, though this one comes with two new wrinkles. It's the first time the men will play in a non-NBA venue and it's the first time both tournaments will be held in the same city during the same week.