By Caroline Carbonetti
New York City, New York
March Madness is one of the biggest events in the sports world, and because it was cut short in 2020, fans cannot wait to watch in 2021. In the past, March Madness has been held all around the country, but due to COVID-19, it is scheduled to be held only in Indianapolis. Although there is still uncertainty, the NCAA scheduled selection Sunday for March 14, and the dates for the final four are planned for April 3 and 5. Due to the rising cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., it is still up in the air how long it will take for teams to quarantine and get tested.
On the other hand, it seems that the NCAA is sticking to its roots and wants to continue the tournament with all 68 teams.
The NCAA is planning to use six venues for the tournament in Indianapolis. The Indianapolis Convention Center will primarily be used as a practice facility and not for game courts. Although Lucas Oil Stadium can hold two games, only one court will be used at a time. The NCAA is also planning on using Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Assembly Hall and Mackey Arena.
Basketball fans need not worry because not everything seems like it is going to be very different; selection Sunday’s process seems to be quite ordinary. The NCAA came out with the NET rankings like it has in the past. The brackets of the games seem to look similar to previous years. Gonzaga, Baylor, Tennessee, Illinois and Villanova, seem to be the top five teams going into March Madness.
David Worlock, a spokesperson for the NCAA, said that they are still discussing the protocols that would ensue if a team were quarantined due to COVID-19 exposure. Many have suggested that it would make most sense to have replacement teams ready.
The NCAA has partnered with various health officials and programs to ensure COVID-19 tests for all players, coaches and officials. The NCAA has also booked rooms for the majority of the teams at the Marriott, which is connected to the convention center where teams will practice. Additionally, teams are assigned to dedicated floors to prevent the spread of COVID-19 if members of the NCAA test positive.
Although traveling around the nation playing with fans in the stadium is ideal, many know that this is not possible in 2021. The sports world can’t afford to lose another March Madness because of the large amount of money the event brings in. While being discouraged that there is not going to be fans in the stadium, coaches and players are very excited to get back to playing.
Most of the money the NCAA makes from tournaments like these is from viewers and not from fans in the stadiums, so it is imperative that March Madness occurs––regardless of what form it takes. It has not been officially announced whether any non-family member fans are welcome to attend events.