A small group of protesters yesterday "flew a large Confederate flag from the top of a parking garage" next to Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C., the site of two NCAA Tournament games, according to Pete Iacobelli of the AP. Protesters said that they "wanted to make their presence known to the NCAA" (AP, 3/19). In Greensboro, Ed Hardin writes the flag was a "bitter reminder of the days when South Carolina lost NCAA events because of the flag." The "tense scene" outside the arena yesterday "seemed to foretell what would happen inside." The atmosphere in the venue was "poisonous" and it was a "bittersweet way to end" the event (Greensboro NEWS & RECORD, 3/20). NCAA Senior VP/Basketball Dan Gavitt in a statement said that the organization would "not permit symbols compromising a safe environment on venue property the tournament controls." The AP notes other areas are "under the city's jurisdiction, and the NCAA back the city's efforts to manage actions concerning freedom of speech" (AP, 3/20). CBSSPORTS.com's Matt Norlander writes the location for South Carolina-Duke and the "reasons for the tournament being played at said location must be addressed." No. 2-seed Duke in effect "played a road game." South Carolina fans "overtook the building" while UNC fans "filled up the joint and joined in their border buddies to cheer against Duke." Sports and politics "mix more often than people realize, but this was a decision that wound up costing millions for Duke, the state of North Carolina and the ACC." Duke "didn’t lose because of where it played, but the NCAA’s moving the tourney out of North Carolina unquestionably had some impact on what happened" (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/20).
ROUND WE GO: In Tulsa, Kelly Hines reports BOK Center drew a total attendance of 43,585 for its first- and second-round Tournament games, an average of 14,528 for the three sessions Friday and yesterday. The arena capacity for the games was listed at 17,996. Tulsa Associate AD/Operations & Internal Affairs Nick Salis, who served as Tournament Dir for the event, said, "The crowds were into it and once again I think the building performed and exceeded expectations" (TULSA WORLD, 3/20). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes under the header, "NCAA Tournament Brought A Buzz To Sacramento That Bodes Well For City's Future." After "snubbing the area for a decade because creaky old Arco/Sleep Train Arena had outlived its usefulness," NCAA officials "gave Sacramento another chance and on Sunday started dropping hints about more to come." NCAA Dir of Men's Basketball Championships L.J. Wright said of Golden 1 Center, "It’s a brand new toy, right? And now that we’ve been here, seen and experienced it, we’ve received nothing but positive feedback from the teams. ... The atmosphere has been incredible" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/20). In Buffalo, Tim Graham writes the first- and second-round games at KeyBank Center were "righteous." Buffalo "enjoyed its place on the national stage and forgot for a few days how rare the postseason is for their hometown teams" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/19).
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE: In Utah, Dirk Facer reported the Univ. of Utah has submitted bids to host the NCAA Tournament's first two rounds or regional finals in '19 at Vivint Smart Home Arena in order to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the '79 Final Four that "pitted Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in the championship game." Utah has also sent in bids to host the first two rounds or regionals in '20, '21 and '22. Univ. of Utah Dir of Event & Facility Management Steve Pyne said, "We really enjoy doing it, and I think the city enjoys having it here." Vivint Smart Home Arena hosted first- and second-round games this year, and Pyne said that "things went really, really well." Arena officials "informed him that concession sales set a venue record for highest volume at a one-day event" (DESERET NEWS, 3/19). In Detroit, Mark Snyder notes Detroit Mercy will be the host school for NCAA first- and second-round games at Little Caesars Arena next year, and work has "already begun, working with the Detroit Sports Commission." UDM Dir of Athletic Marketing & Promotions Jeremiah Hergott "came to Indianapolis’ NCAA tournament site this week ... for meetings and seeing all the machinations in person." Being on-site "showed the Detroit group that volunteers are essential, as the Indiana Sports Corporation has 250 volunteers" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 3/20). In Milwaukee, Rich Kirchen noted Marquette and the Bucks are "seeking future NCAA men’s basketball tournament games at the new Bucks arena scheduled to open" in '18 (BIZJOURNALS.com, 3/18).
UCONN TERRITORY: In Hartford, Kenneth Gosselin noted attendance at this year's American Athletic Conference men's basketball tournament at XL Center "fell short of forecasts." About 20,000 attended AAC games, "less than half of the up-to-50,000 forecast" by the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau. Capital Region Development Authority Venue Dir Kimberly Hart said, "The attendance was disappointing" (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/18).