Could we see the NCAA Tournament hosted in Toronto?

Raptors Super Fan Nav Bhatia with the Tennessee Vols. Photo by Chris McKee

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

However, even a Ferrari needs some maintenance once and awhile just to keep that engine purring. 

The NCAA March Madness tournament is perhaps the most exciting event in all of sports. It’s one of the rare sporting events where fans are constantly engaged regardless of the two teams involved. The NCAA and the TV networks are making money hand over fist with ratings and revenue increasing on an annual basis. 

According to, tournament ratings in 2019 averaged 10.5 million viewers across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV, an 8% increase. NCAA March Madness live also set new records, as livestreams were up by 31% and live hours consumed increased 29%. The tournament attracted an estimated $933 million in ad revenue, according to estimates from ad measurement firm

While TV ratings are increasing on a yearly basis, how many times have you turned on the TV and seen an empty arena at one of the early round regionals?

Perhaps its time the NCAA begins to explore other options for hosts cities instead of the usual suspects of Dayton, Boise or San Jose. 

One of those options that should be in the mix for the future is Toronto, Canada.

This past week, three regular season NCAA games were held in Toronto at Scotia Bank arena as part of the Naismith Classic. Harvard faced Buffalo followed by Tennessee vs Washington and then Rutgers vs St. Bonaventure. Could this have been a litmus test by the NCAA to see if Toronto could work as a potential host site of a March Madness regional site? 

Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker spoke on the possibility of the NCAA tournament taking place in Canada. He said, “I’m a big fan of Toronto and would love for something to continue to take place (here) basketball wise for college teams.”

In years past, many would argue that Toronto is simply a hockey town and the interest level in basketball wouldn’t be suitable to be a host city for the NCAA Tournament. However, after the Toronto Raptors historic run to the NBA Championship it is clear that Toronto and the entire country of Canada will support high level basketball when presented with the opportunity. 

Over the past decade, many schools have travelled north of the border for their pre-season tours including the Duke Blue Devils in the summer of 2018. Duke played three games to sold out crowds of over 10,000 or more last August which included two games in Mississauga (which is just west of Toronto) at the Raptors G-League team arena and a third game in Montreal. 

During his stay in Canada, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski spoke about his affinity for Toronto. He said, “Toronto is a world city. It’s not just a great Canadian city but a great world city that really opens its arms to all different types of cultures. 

At the start of the 2019-20 season, there are currently over 150 Canadians playing division one basketball in the United States. The game and players that make up the rosters are becoming more global on a yearly basis and perhaps its time the NCAA looks at expanding their brand of basketball outside the US. 

Before they can ever consider hosting the tournament in Europe or Asia, the natural first step would be to make the short trip just north of the border. 

Canada is ready, willing and able to be the first international host of the NCAA Tournament. 

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Chris McKee is a Toronto based broadcaster and writer. Chris does play-by-play for CBC Sports and TSN radio with the CEBL as well as doing PBP for One Volleyball, OSBA and Orangeville Prep which is the premier high school program in Canada. He also works as a traffic reporter for TSN 1050, News Talk 1010 and Jewel 88.5 and was recently the Social Media Director for Golf Talk Canada on TSN. Prior to working in sports, he was an award winning music agent and concert promoter for 20 years having produced tours for the likes of Rihanna, The Black Eyed Peas, Wu-Tang Clan, 50 Cent, The Roots and many more. Author of the book "Life on the road with the Wu-Tang Clan."


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