What You Need to Know About NCAA Men's Basketball Championship in Hartford

Basketball fans will be coming to Connecticut later this week as March Madness comes to Hartford for the first time in 21 years and we now which know which teams will be playing here.

The first and second rounds of the Division one NCAA men’s basketball championship will take place at the XL Center on Thursday, March 21 and Saturday, March 23. There are limited all-session tickets, but single-session tickets are sold out. 

Game one is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Thursday, March 21 when number four Florida State competes against number 13 Vermont. Doors open at 12:30 p.m.

Game two will be number five Marquette vs. number 12 Murray State. It starts after game 1 ends.

Game three starts at 7:20 p.m. Thursday when number six Villanova competes against number 11 St. Mary’s.

Game four, which starts after game three, will be number three Purdue vs. number 14 Old Dominion. 

The second-round games will be held on Saturday and the schedule will be announced after the games Thursday.

The winner of game one will play the winner of game two and the winner of game three will play the winner of game four.

Championship organizers expect the tournament to bring in 25,000 attendees and around $7.7 million for the Greater Hartford region from visitors staying in hotels, going to local restaurants, shopping and enjoy attractions, according to a news release from the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau.

Part of the festivities will include a free all-day Open Practice Event at the XL Center on Wednesday, March 20 for fans to get a sneak peek at the eight teams, which will each have a 30-minute practice time slot.

That schedule has also been released.

Open Practice Day

Each team will have a 40-minute practice slot throughout the day on Wednesday, March 20. Doors will open at 10 a.m. and practices will run from 11 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. See the full schedule below:

  • 10 a.m.: doors open
  • 11 a.m. to 11:40 a.m.: Vermont
  • 11:45 a.m. to 12:25 p.m.: Murray State
  • 12:30 p.m. to 1:10 p.m.: Florida State
  • 1:15 p.m. to 1:55 p.m.: Marquette
  • 3:25 p.m. to 4:05 p.m.: Villanova
  • 4:10 p.m. to 4:50 p.m.: Purdue
  • 4:55 p.m. to 5:35 p.m.: Saint Mary’s
  • 5:40 p.m. to 6:20 p.m.: Old Dominion

There will be food and beverage combo specials running throughout the day as well as happy hour specials from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Learn more online at XLCenter.com/OpenPractice. This event is free and open to the public.

Parking Information: 

There will be $10 parking throughout downtown Hartford in designated surface lots and garages during all March Madness festivities. The following list of garages will feature $10 Tournament

  • 58 Chapel St.
  • 1212 Main St.
  • 285 Church St.
  • 55 Chapel St. South (MAT Garage)
  • 10 Ford St.
  • 185 Pearl St.
  • 160 Jewell St.
  • Trumbull on the Park Garage
  • The XL Center garage is $15

Public Transportation:

The Dash Shuttle, CTTransit's free circulatory bus in downtown Hartford, will operate with extended hours on Wednesday, March 20 through Saturday, March 23.

Dash Extended Hours:

  • Wednesday, March 20: 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 21: 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.
  • Friday, March 22: 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 23: 8:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Local Restaurant Deals:

Certain downtown Hartford restaurants and bars will be offering exclusive Tournament deals throughout the weekend. See the full list of discounts here XLCenter.com/deals.

Party on Pratt:

There will be a free block party open to public and it will feature a pop-up pub with local breweries and distilleries, live music, local vendors and exhibits. All ages welcome! Learn more here xlcenter.com/prattstreet


  • Thursday, March 21: 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Friday, March 22: 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 23: 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
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