NCAA tourney returning to Garden

NEW YORK -- The Big Dance is coming back to the Big Apple.

Madison Square Garden will be the site of the East Regional of the 2014 NCAA men's basketball tournament, the NCAA announced Monday.

The Garden has hosted 71 NCAA tournament games in its storied history -- but none since 1961.

"We are excited about the tournament returning to the world's most famous arena," said NCAA vice president of men's basketball Dan Gavitt in a statement. "Only three arenas have hosted more tournament games than Madison Square Garden, despite it being more than five decades since the last time it hosted. That gives you a great sense of the historical significance of bringing the tournament back there."

St. John's and the Big East Conference will serve as co-hosts. St. John's plays most of its home games at the Garden, while the Big East has held its conference tournament there every year since 1983.

Madison Square Garden is currently undergoing major renovations, which are expected to be complete by the time of the 2014 tournament. The building has been closed the past two summers, and will again close in the summer of 2013, the final phase of the project.

The announcement comes at a time of great excitement in New York City, when it comes to college basketball. The Garden already hosts several prominent national programs each November and December, via the 2K Sports Classic, the NIT Season Tip-Off and the Jimmy V Classic. Now the brand-new Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn is getting into the mix as well. Kentucky, the No. 3-ranked team in the country and the defending national champion, just played there on Friday, in the Barclays Center Classic. Top-ranked Indiana and No. 13 UCLA will play there next week, along with Georgetown and Georgia, in the Progressive Legends Classic.

The last time NCAA tournament games were held in the local area was in 2011, when the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., was the site of the East Regional. The Prudential Center was not among the 25 preliminary round sites the NCAA revealed for the 2014 and 2015 tournaments on Monday. The 2015 East Regional will be held at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.

"The bid process was as competitive as ever, with 53 cities expressing the desire to be a part of one of the world's premier sporting events," Gavitt said. "We are thrilled for our hosts for the '14 and '15 tournaments, as they include a mix of cities that have proven over the course of several decades how to stage this great event, as well as cities that have come on to the scene in recent years and have embraced the tournament."