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Hoosier State of mind: 2021 NCAA men's basketball tourney to be played entirely in Indiana
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Hoosier State of mind: 2021 NCAA men's basketball tourney to be played entirely in Indiana

The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team has produced some good memories in the state of Indiana and could get a chance to add to that collection in what figures to be a unique 2021 NCAA tournament.

The NCAA announced Monday that all 67 games in this year’s men’s event will be played in Indiana due to the COVID-19 pandemic that completely wiped out last year’s tournament.

Games will be played at four sites in Indianapolis  Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum and two courts inside Lucas Oil Stadium — along with Purdue’s Mackey Arena in West Lafayette and Indiana’s Assembly Hall in Bloomington.

The Final Four still is scheduled to be played April 3 and 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The original plan was for the 67 games to be played at 13 sites across the country, starting with the First Four in Dayton, Ohio. Regional sites were set for Minneapolis, Denver, New York City and Memphis, Tennessee.

“The 2021 version of March Madness will be one to remember, if for no other reason than the uniqueness of the event,” NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said in a statement. “We are making the most of the circumstances the (COVID-19) global pandemic has presented. ... This is going to be complicated and difficult; there’s no question about that.”

What's still to be determined is how many fans will be allowed inside the venues. NCAA officials said a limited number of family members of players and coaches could attend games but decisions about expanding attendance or conducting fan events will be announced later.

The Badgers’ list of highlights in Indiana includes a 60-56 win over the Hoosiers last March at Assembly Hall that clinched a share of the Big Ten Conference title.

Lucas Oil Stadium was where the Badgers knocked off previously unbeaten Kentucky in a national semifinal in 2015 before falling to Duke in the championship game.

UW won Big Ten tournaments in 2004 and 2008 at what now is called Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Mackey Arena hasn’t been all that kind to the Badgers, but that has more to do with the opponent (Purdue) than the venue.

Gavitt cautioned that the holding the tournament will present many challenges. Scores of college basketball games have been canceled or postponed this season because of COVID-19 issues, with games called off on a near-daily basis.

NCAA president Mark Emmert said an announcement about the Division I women's tournament is expected soon. San Antonio, which was scheduled to host this year's women's Final Four, is believed to be the front-runner for a potentially similar tourney.

UW dropped two spots to No. 8 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll after splitting a pair of home games last week.

The Badgers (9-2, 3-1 Big Ten) followed a 70-64 loss to Maryland on Dec. 28 with a 71-59 win over then-No. 21 Minnesota three days later. UW’s game at Penn State, scheduled for Sunday, was postponed after positive COVID-19 tests within the Nittany Lions program.

Seven other Big Ten teams are ranked this week: No. 5 Iowa, No. 10 Michigan, No. 12 Illinois, No. 15 Rutgers, No. 16 Minnesota and No. 23 Michigan State.

Meanwhile, UW is No. 11 in the first NET rankings, which is used to seed the NCAA tournament field.

Here’s where the other Big Ten teams stand in the NET: No. 4 Illinois, No. 6 Michigan, No. 7 Iowa, No. 17 Rutgers, No. 28 Ohio State, No. 32 Maryland, No. 42 Penn State, No. 43 Minnesota, No. 47 Purdue, No. 50 Northwestern, No. 51 Indiana, No. 119 Michigan State and No. 186 Nebraska.

The Badgers return to action Thursday with a game against visiting Indiana.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Fave 5: Sports reporter Jim Polzin shares his most memorable stories from 2020

Calling these my favorite stories from 2020 isn’t accurate because a couple of them weren’t particularly enjoyable to report and write. But trying to get to the bottom of the Erik Helland saga and, later, the COVID-19 outbreak on the UW football team definitely can be classified as memorable. The remarkable run to a share of the 2019-20 Big Ten Conference regular-season title by the UW men’s basketball was a blast to cover, and I included a Senior Day piece on Brevin Pritzl and my game story from the championship-clinching win at Indiana. Finally, I chose a story I did this season on how Greg Gard got started in coaching 30 years ago in tiny Hazel Green.

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“I really looked at it from a standpoint being a parent myself, that if we walked into a known risky situation and we had something go wrong and we got the virus transmitted somehow — hopefully not, but if that happened — I couldn’t honestly look at my players and their parents and say I’m confident in the environment we’re walking into," UW coach Greg Gard said.

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