NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament host rule needs changed


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Wells Fargo Center hosting Villanova during the 2019 NCAA season.

Ben Rosen is a senior and reporter for the Fishers Tiger Times. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.

     March is one of the greatest months on the sports calendar. During the month of March and into early April are the NCAA Men’s and Women’s basketball tournaments. These games are played at various locations across the country. The selection committees for each tournament try to keep each team as close to home as possible. 

     For the women’s tournament, the top 16 overall seeds host the first and second round games, unless there is a venue conflict. The men’s tournament does not do that, and instead uses predetermined venues throughout the tournament. Some of these venues are used by teams that might be competing in the tournament. 

     Some examples of this are: St. John’s playing some home games at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Villanova playing select home games at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia and UConn occasionally playing home games at the XL Center in Hartford. 

     This leads to a problem and loophole involving a rule surrounding this issue. Current NCAA rules state that a team can play tournament games in a venue as long as they have played no more than three home games in that venue during that season.

     For the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the Wells Fargo Center is hosting the East Regional, while Villanova, who has only played three games there this season, is in a position to be the highest ranked Big East team on the overall seed list. This would mean that Villanova will likely be placed in the East Region. 

     This creates a problem, because if Villanova advances to the second weekend of the tournament, they would be playing there, assuming they are placed in the East. Teams including at least one and maybe two teams seeded higher than Villanova would be playing true road games during the second weekend of the tournament.

     This would not be fair to any of the teams involved, because the whole point of the larger and off-campus venues being used is to create a neutral site environment for the tournament. This takes out the advantage of teams playing at home that are involved in tournaments for other NCAA sports.

     Dayton, who plays their home games at University of Dayton Arena (the host of the First Four) should be the only team that is able to play in their own building during the tournament, which happened in 2015. This is solely because of the fact that if a team is placed in the First Four there are no other options for venues.

     The rule needs to be changed so that the moment teams play a home game in a venue they cannot play there during the tournament. A home game for this purpose would be defined as a game in which the home team has their logo prominently displayed on the floor including the center court logo with any regular season conference home game in which a team plays at an alternate site counting towards this requirement regardless of court branding.

      This requirement mainly applies to teams that use larger venues for select home games, such as Villanova, St. John’s and UConn. This is because regular season conference games have a true home team and not just a designated home team like a regular neutral site game would. 

     This would allow for neutral-site regular season games and conference tournaments to not disqualify a team from being able to play in certain venues during the tournament. If the rule is not changed, similar situations can come up during future tournaments because host sites through the 2027 tournament have already been announced. 

     Of the future host sites that have been announced, 13 venues (excluding the First Four in Dayton) have teams that regularly play home games in those venues. Some of the teams would still be ineligible to play there during the tournament under the current rules because they use the venue for most or all of their home games. 

     The existence of the “pod system” that was first used during the 2002 tournament allows for more flexible venue assignments for the first weekend, that also make it easier for the selection committee to keep as many teams as possible close to home for those rounds. The fact that there are four regions should make this very easy to implement, as well, since sometimes venues are relatively close to each other allowing for minimized travel for a team that is ineligible to play in a regions host venue.

     The neutral site environment is one of the best things about the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. Allowing a team to play a home game during the tournament ruins the environment that allows the month of March and the tournament the most exciting time of the year.