November 28, 2022

By DAVE SKRETTA
AP basketball writer

The Final Four travel to Las Vegas for the first time, where betting on the NCAA tournament has long been a staple of the March Madness amusement after the NCAA awarded the men’s national semifinals and championship game for the 2027-28 season to the Allegiant stage awarded.

The NCAA also announced Tuesday that Detroit’s Ford Field will host the 2027 Final Four, while Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium will host the 2029 event and Dallas’ AT&T Stadium will host the 2030 event.

“We are excited to bring the NCAA’s premier championship to Las Vegas, a city that has hosted numerous championships from multiple member conferences for a number of years,” said Chris Reynolds, Bradley athletic director, NCAA selection committee chair. “Feedback from the leagues, their teams’ fans and the media on the events hosted there has been overwhelmingly positive and we are confident that we will receive the same reviews.”

This season’s national championship will be decided at Houston’s NRG Stadium, while Phoenix’s State Farm Stadium, San Antonio’s Alamodome and Lucas Oil Stadium have already been selected for the next three Final Four.

The NCAA has long balked at bringing marquee events to Las Vegas because of its reputation as a gambling mecca. But the stance has softened over the years, particularly as sports betting has become legal in states across the country and many leagues have made their glittering arenas the home of their post-season basketball tournaments.

The Mountain West will have its championship game this season at the Thomas & Mack Center, the Pac-12 at T-Mobile Arena, the West Coast Conference at Orleans Arena, and the WAC split between the Michelob ULTRA Arena and the Orleans Arena, deliver.

Las Vegas should host nine more NCAA championships over the next four years, and the men’s NCAA tournament will travel there for the first time next March when a regional round is played at T-Mobile Arena.

“We are excited. It’s pretty exciting to have a marquee like this coming to town,” said Steve Hill, CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. ‚ÄúVegas has been a basketball city for decades. We had an interesting path with the NCAA back then. It’s really gratifying to be able to work with the NCAA to bring their marquee here and truly celebrate what basketball is all about in this city.”

Once an outcast for sports, Las Vegas has suddenly become a tourist destination. The NHL’s Raiders and Golden Knights play in sparkling new facilities, the NFL was so successful with its Pro Bowl last season that it’s bringing back a reinvented version of it in February, and Formula 1 returns to Las Vegas for the first time Strip back time since 1982 next summer.

The other Final Four venues chosen Tuesday have hosted the men’s basketball championship in the past.

Ford Field hosted the 2009 tournament when 72,922 fans packed the Detroit Lions’ home stadium to watch North Carolina defeat Michigan State. AT&T Stadium will also have its second Final Four, having been played in 2014 when Connecticut beat Kentucky in front of a crowd of 79,238 at the Dallas Cowboys’ home stadium.

Lucas Oil Stadium has hosted the Final Four six times in the past 25 years, including the 2021 event when the entire NCAA tournament was played in front of a limited number of fans at venues throughout Indiana. If it hosts the Final Four in 2029, Indianapolis Kansas City will referee the title game at 10 a head most times.

“It’s been said many times that coaches, players, fans and the media love coming to Indianapolis for the Final Four, but I think it can’t be overstated how much everyone enjoys their experience when they come,” said Reynolds. “People don’t just welcome big events, they don’t take anything for granted.”

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AP sportswriter Mark Anderson from Las Vegas contributed to this report.

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AP College Basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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