So it is madness!
Playing in a pandemic was never going to be easy. It hasn’t been for the past year. But inviting 60+ teams and thousands of athletes from across the country to a statewide, bubble-ish tournament will bring another kind of madness to March.
No matter what happens, the tournament will tip off, a winner will cut down the nets in April, and the NCAA will get their money.
But we’re two days away from the First Four and we’re already seeing the virus predictably disrupt the usual patterns of March.
So how’s it going over in Indiana?
According to Stadium, six top college refs are out of the NCAA tournament due to one positive test and contact tracing guidelines.
After checking into their hotel, the six officials’ rooms were not ready and there was reportedly no food available … which, aside, is hard to believe there’s ZERO food at a hotel. Anyway, the refs were somehow granted permission to go out for a bite to eat in downtown Indy. When they returned, they took COVID tests and one tested positive. The five other close contacts, who all ate together maskless at a steakhouse, have been ruled out of participating in the NCAA tournament by the Indiana Department of Health.
This year, the NCAA brought in 60 refs for the tournament instead of their usual 100. And four of these six refs had Final Four experience.
March Madness will have replacement teams but it doesn’t look like they’ll have replacement officials. Hopefully, 54 will be enough.
The New York Times smelled something fishy when Rick Pitino’s Iona squad was able to practice less than 24 hours after they landed in Indianapolis. In the NCAA’s own pandemic safety overview, the 501(c)(3) wrote, “All Tier 1 individuals will remain in quarantine until two consecutive tests on separate days are confirmed negative, at which time team practice may begin.” Now, the NCAA says squads are allowed to leave quarantine after two negative PCR tests, spaced 12 hours apart.
If you don’t like the rules, change them discreetly! It’s the college sports way.
This morning, a member of Georgia Tech’s “travel party” tested positive for the virus.
Due to HIPPA laws, Coach Josh Pastner could only say the case was from “a member of the traveling party.” So it could be an athlete, assistant, trainer, or someone else. The Yellow Jackets won the ACC tournament on Saturday and flew to Indianapolis on Sunday night.
The Cavaliers had a premature exit from the ACC tournament due to COVID. After one player tested positive for the virus, “most” of the team has been quarantined and won’t travel to Indiana until the end of the week. “This is not ideal,” Coach Tony Bennet said on Sunday, “but if you’re going to have it, we took it to about the last day you could have a positive case.” Teams have until 6pm tonight to inform the NCAA whether or not they can play in the tournament. UVA could practice in person on Friday, at the earliest. They’re scheduled to take on Ohio University the next night. Anyone else smell an upset?
The Jayhawks, too, had to bow out of their conference tourney due to a positive COVID test. They’re a three seed in this dance but landed yesterday afternoon without Jalen Wilson, David McCormack, and Tristan Enaruna.
Still three more days until the First Round tips off Friday at noon — keep your fingers crossed