Three years worth of sites, three looks of how the NCAA did.
Three new venues(and one new city) highlight the road to Houston for 2011. Both Cleveland and Tulsa are back in the rota, but with new arenas hosting(Quicken Loans Arena; BOK Center). The Prudential Center brings the NCAA's back to New Jersey for the first time since 2007 and brings it to Newark for the 1st time. It's also the only Northeast site this particular year(Unless you count Washington, D.C. as northeastern). The major shock is the return of Tucson into the rota. A few years ago, the NCAA deemed McKale Center too small(in terms of square footage). In fact, the media center had to be shoehorned into the weight room. I'm not sure what happened, but it appears the University of Arizona was able to expand to meet NCAA needs. Also, there is no Midwest or South regionals(these have been replaced by the Southeast and Southwest.
Louisville and Pittsburgh rejoin the rota this year with two new venues, both of which are an upgrade over what they had previously had. Louisville's last NCAA tourney game was in 1991 at Freedom Hall, located at the Kentucky Expo grounds. Pittsburgh will host at Consol Energy Center, a stones throw away from the Igloo, where there have been two years of preliminary games. The Phoenix area venue for this year is the US Airways Center, a more centrally located venue than University of Phoenix Stadium which was a losing candidate for a Final Four. St. Louis hosts at the Edward Jones Dome, which won't be available for any games for a few years after it hosts the Midwest Regional, due to an upcoming renovation in 2014.
With this being the diamond tournament, the NCAA opted for history, rather than new venues. Indeed, among the areas that are hosting in 2013(Including Atlanta), only Austin and Dayton have not had a Final Four in their areas. Consider the sites chosen(and the Final Fours in the areas of said sites):
Arlington, TX(1986 in Dallas at Reunion Arena, plus 2014 at Cowboys Stadium)
Auburn Hills, MI(2009 in Detroit at Ford Field)
Indianapolis(1980 at Market Square Arena, 1991, 97, 2000, and 06 at RCA Dome and 2010 and 15 at Lucas Oil Stadium)
Kansas City(1940-42, 53-55, 57, 61, 64 at Municipal Auditorium, 1988 at Kemper Arena)
Lexington, KY(1985 at this year's site, Rupp Arena)
Los Angeles(1968 and 72 at the Sports Arena)
Philadelphia(1976 and 81 at the old Spectrum, plus the classic 1992 East Regional final)
Salt Lake City(1979 at the Huntsman Center)
San Jose(1960 in San Francisco at the Cow Palace)
One site is still unknown. It is believed that the venue in question is Madison Square Garden in New York(would likely be hosted by St. John's University and the Big East), but some unknown factors have forced the NCAA to delay the announcement. It's unknown who would replace MSG if it cannot host.
Missing in Action
Two cities that bid for the Final Four in the most recent cycle(2012-16) did not get preliminary round games for 2011-13; Detroit and Minneapolis. There will be games in the Detroit area in 2013 at the Palace of Auburn Hills, though Detroit(or more specifically Ford Field) will likely be a host of early round action in the next cycle. Minneapolis-St. Paul however is a murkier picture. The likely site for early round games, the Metrodome, faces an uncertain future as it's possible it may be redeveloped for the Minnesota Vikings(which itself is uncertain). If the dome can't be used, or is replaced by an outdoor stadium, the other two options out there may be unavailable due to commitments to other events(Target Center due to state high school basketball, Xcel Energy Center due to the potential of the WCHA Final Five remaining there for the foreseable future on the 1st weekend of the NCAA's(although the X may be able to host regionals)).
Also not hosting this go-around are:
Albany, Birmingham, Boise, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Des Moines, Fresno, Grand Rapids, Hartford, Jacksonville, Knoxville, Little Rock, Memphis, Miami, Oakland, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Providence, Raleigh, Wichita, Winston-Salem, Worcester(there are definitely others I may have missed.
Stay tuned for my women's picks, sometime next month.