March Madness Comes to Louisville!
March Madness Comes to Louisville
by Steve Thompson
Kentuckians are already crazy over basketball. From AAU summer ball, to high school and college basketball, nobody loves the game more. When it was announced that Louisville had been selected to host the 2019 South Regional NCAA basketball tournament, the city as usual, rose to the occasion.
This is not Louisville’s first dance with the “Madness”. This is the ninth NCAA championship event hosted by the University of Louisville and the KFC Yum Center, and the impact was significant.
Preparations began nearly a year in advance of the event, shortly after the Yum Center hosted the 2015 NCAA Division I Basketball Men’s First and Second round games.
Ranking 7th in overall event economic impact, the tournament generated close to $ 20 Million dollars in revenue for the area. Hotels, restaurants and local attractions benefited from this year’s NCAA tournament.
With fans coming from as far away as Oregon and as close to home as Purdue and Tennessee, the action on the court at the KFC Yum center did not disappoint. With top seeds in Virginia, Tennessee and Purdue all primed and ready to make their runs, fans could only hope for one of those classic games, that will stand out as a benchmark for the South Region.
That game was the Tennessee-Purdue match-up. With both fan bases well represented, the Yum center had an electricity that even had the staff buzzing. After a series of leads, runs and miscues, highly touted Tennessee found themselves on the losing end of a 99 -94 overtime thriller to Purdue. A classic SEC-Big ten showdown, with contrasting coaching and playing styles. Following that game is usually somewhat of a letdown, but not here in the Derby City.
Virginia which had won by narrow margins in both previous games, barely survived an aggressive Purdue squad, taking the South Regional championship 80-75, advancing to the final 4.
Virginia will play Auburn, who beat a sluggish Kentucky squad, advancing to their program’s first final 4 appearance. Michigan State and Texas Tech provide the potential fireworks on the other side of the final four bracket.
Although the Cats, Cards and Racers did not go the distance in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, Louisville as a community, won its own March Madness championship. Hopefully this will not be the last time we see quality college basketball teams, the national media excitement and positive economic impact, March Madness had on the city of Louisville.