Many die-hard college basketball fans remember the disappointment they felt last spring when the 2020 NCAA Tournament was cancelled because the coronavirus that was, at the time, starting to emerge in the United States.
For 2021, all signs are pointing to March Madness taking place even while the country continues to live through the pandemic, but the annual spring tradition for college basketball fans will look much different from years past.
The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee announced last week the relocation of 13 already determined preliminary round sites for the 2021 tournament, which is set to begin on March 16th, 2021.
“My committee colleagues and I did not come lightly to the difficult decision to relocate the preliminary rounds of the 2021 tournament, as we understand the disappointment 13 communities will feel to miss out on being part of March Madness next year,” said Mitch Barnhart, committee chair and University of Kentucky athletics director.
Barnhart continued: “The committee and staff deeply appreciate the efforts of all the host institutions and conferences, and we look forward to bringing the tournament back to the impacted sites in future years.”
The decision was made after the committee – consisting of ten members from different schools and conferences – had been discussing contingency planning and the best way to conduct a safe and healthy 2021 NCAA Tournament.
The body came to a conclusion that having teams travel to 13 sites in places around the country would be too hard to execute during COVID and that the championship tournament should be held in a single city to ensure greater safety for all participants, according to the news release.
“We have learned so much from monitoring other successful sporting events in the last several months, and it became clear it’s not feasible to manage this complex championship in so many different states with the challenges presented by the pandemic,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball. “However, we are developing a solid plan to present a safe, responsible and fantastic March Madness tournament unlike any other we’ve experienced.”
In light of the committee’s decision, the NCAA is reportedly in talks with the state of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis about potentially hosting the entire 68-team tournament from start to finish, according to the news release.
Having Indianapolis as the sole host city for March Madness would make sense given the city was already scheduled to be the location of the Final Four, and the fact that downtown Indianapolis features many hotels and other sporting venues as well as the large Indiana convention center.
Those 13 sites were supposed to host the tournament’s initial play-in games, the first and second rounds and the four regional rounds. Some of the locations included cities such as Dayton, San Jose, Dallas, Providence and Lexington, among others.
“The Board of Governors and my top priorities are to protect the health and well-being of college athletes while also maintaining their opportunity to compete at the highest level,” said Mark Emmert, NCAA President. “These principles have guided the decision-making process as we continue to assess how to have a fair and safe championship experience.”
In other college basketball news, CBS Sports insider Jon Rothstein reported Sunday that multiple power five conferences are exploring the notion of daily COVID-19 testing as a way to give the sport a better shot at making it through the 2020-21 season without interruption.
The Big 10 and Pac-12 conferences have already been conducting daily testing, according to Rothstein.
That testing method could potentially solve the looming issue of players and coaches having to possibly sit out two-weeks and miss several games because of positive cases and contact tracing since the college basketball schedule features contests multiple times per week.
All in all, nobody really knows what this college basketball season will look like or how it will go with so much uncertainty involved.
The season tips off on Wednesday.
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