The first multi-team expansion of the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship (better known as March Madness, the Christmas Day of college basketball) in more than 25 years will be showcased in a familiar host city.
The Division I Men’s Basketball Committee announced today that the University of Dayton will host the 2011 NCAA First Four, the four first-round games of next year’s championship. In other words, as the tourney expands from 64 to 68, this year two games will feature teams battling to advance as two of the tournament’s No. 16 seeds, while the other two games will pit the last four at-large teams selected to the field.
The 68-team field will be announced on Selection Sunday, March 13, with first-round games taking place Tuesday and Wednesday, March 15-16. The first four games will be nationally televised in primetime on Turner Broadcasting’s truTV, as part of the NCAA’s 14-year broadcast agreement with Turner and CBS.
It’s fitting that March Madness will break new ground in Dayton, Ohio. Because it’s a place known for innovation. It’s the birthplace of aviation, the Wright brothers are from there. It’s also home to Wright State University, whose alumni base includes Nicole Scherzinger, the leader of the Pussycat Dolls and winner of the most recent “Dancing with the Stars.” And she’s broken new ground in….uhmm..uh….being a slag in public, I guess.
But enough digressions, back to hoops. The first-round winners will advance to second- and third-round sites, which include Charlotte, Chicago (as Kanye says, “Chi-town, Chi-town, we show ’em how we gets down!) Cleveland, Denver, Tampa, Tucson, Tulsa and Washington D.C. Regional hosts are Anaheim, New Orleans, Newark and San Antonio, and the 73rd national champion will be crowned at the Men’s Final Four in Houston April 2 and 4. Tickets for the second- and third-round sites, as well as the regionals, are on sale now.
“Dayton hosted the opening round game for the past 10 years and consistently attracted extraordinary crowds, including over 11,000 in 2009,” said Gene Smith, director of athletics at The Ohio State University and chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee for the 2010-11 season.
“The enthusiasm the UD staff and the local fans demonstrated for hosting that game did not go unnoticed, so it makes sense to us to conduct the inaugural First Four in Dayton.
“We explored different options, including playing the first-round games at multiple sites as well as the possibility of playing all games on one day, but we came to the conclusion that Dayton is the best location to host all four games for the 2011 tournament. Moving forward, we will conduct a thorough evaluation, as we do with all rounds of the championship, with the student-athlete experience being our top priority.”
All 345 Division I teams, including the 334 eligible for the 2011 championship, start preparation for the 2010-11 season with the first official practice on October 15. The first official day of competition is November 12.
Paul M. Banks is President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
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