LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- March Madness will return to Freedom Hall this season after an announcement by the NCAA today that the historic arena and Bellarmine University will play host to the men's NCAA Division II Elite Eight on March 28 and 30 of next year.
The games will be the Division II national quarterfinals and semifinals, with all of the men's national championship games in Division I, II and III being played in Atlanta to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the first NCAA championship game.
Bellarmine and the city of Louisville played host to the Elite Eight from 1995 to 2000 at the Convention Center downtown, but this will be the first Division II tournament held in Freedom Hall, which played host to six Division I Final Fours and numerous regionals.
Bellarmine, which is coming off back-to-back trips to the Division II Final Four and an NCAA championship in 2011 now has a bit of extra incentive. With a good enough season, it could play every NCAA Tournament game in its home city until the title game -- though that's a right you have to earn at the Division II level by being ranked No. 1 in your region, and the Knights play in what is regularly the nation's toughest region.
"After being fortunate enough to have played in the last two Elite Eights, the entire Bellarmine community knows what a great event it is, and we're thrilled to be hosting it once again," Bellarmine Director of Athletics Scott Wiegandt said. "The added bonus of playing in a great and storied venue such as Freedom Hall will provide lifelong memories for all the student-athletes who get to participate."
Karl Schmitt, executive director of the Louisville Sports Commission, said, "As a great basketball city and with the recent success Bellarmine has had in men's basketball, I have no doubt that the entire metropolitan area will embrace this event and make it a special experience for all the student-athletes."