UD Arena the site of 35 games in 20 days in March

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UD Arena: Sights and sounds from 2022 Dayton men's basketball season

Alter among girls teams play in final four this week

UD Arena is always the place to be in March — this year more than any other.

In a 20-day span, from March 1-20, UD Arena will host 35 basketball games: one Dayton Flyers men’s basketball game, which UD won Saturday, 82-76 against Davidson; four NCAA tournament games; and 30 boys and girls high school basketball tournament games.

“It’s what we’re built for,” Dayton Athletic Director Neil Sullivan said on March 1 in Richmond, Va., before Dayton’s 55-53 victory. “It’s what we do.”

The month means more to UD because it comes after two Marches marked by the pandemic. In 2020, Dayton lost the First Four when the NCAA tournament was cancelled. In 2021, the First Four moved to Indiana, where the entire tournament was played.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association did hold the boys and girls state semifinals and championship games at UD Arena in 2021 — 24 games in all — but attendance was limited because of the COVID-19 situation.

“It was good, but the atmosphere will be nowhere near what it will be this year,” Sullivan said. “I think we were limited to 1,500 fans. But, I can tell you, I think people from the OHSAA and others felt that those 1,500 fans felt like a lot more because of the way the arena’s built. It’s built for basketball. It’s an ideal venue. We’re excited for the participants. We’re excited for the young people. We’re also excited for the community to show off who we are. There’s a chance there will be 100,000 people coming in and out at different times.”

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This month, there will be no attendance limits at the OHSAA games. In every way, it will be the biggest month for the arena since the completion of the three-year renovation in 2019.

“A lot of work went into these bids and hosting these games,” Sullivan said. “It’s just time. It’s time to do it. It’s time to get the fans here. It’s time to support the community and get basketball back. It’s what the arena was built for. It’s what the community was built for.”

The girls basketball tournament starts Thursday with four semifinal games at noon, 2 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. in Divisions III and II. Alter will play Columbus Bishop Hartley in the late game Thursday.

The schedule repeats Friday for Divisions IV and I. On Saturday, there will be four state championship games: D-III (10:45 a.m.); D-II (2 p.m.); D-IV (5:15 p.m.); and D-I (8:30 p.m.).

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The boys basketball tournament follows a similar schedule but takes place Friday through Sunday (March 18-20) instead of Thursday through Saturday. On March 18, there will be D-III semifinals at 10:45 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Division II semifinals at 5:15 and 8:30 p.m. It’s the same schedule March 19 with D-IV getting the early games and D-I the later games.

The boys championship games March 20 will follow the same order as the girls championships: D-III (10:45 a.m.); D-II (2 p.m.); D-IV (5:15 p.m.); and D-I (8:30 p.m.). UD Arena hosted six boys district title games last week.

In between the girls and boys state championships, UD Arena will host the First Four on March 15-16. With the four games, the arena will have been the site of 129 NCAA tournament games since 1970. That’s the most of any venue in the country by a wide margin. UD has won the rights to continue hosting the First Four until at least 2026.

This is the 10th year at UD Arena for the First Four, though Dayton hosted the play-in game or opening-round game in prior years.

“The tournament has kicked off there since 2001,” Sullivan said. “Our staff is typically always prepared to be hosting. We also want to be playing. Selection Sunday always has a feel to it for both our men’s team and our women’s team depending on the year. So it’s all hands on deck.”

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