Anna Bauer ’23
For anyone who wants to learn the game or perhaps simply needs a new favorite pastime, March Madness, the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament is just on the cusp of beginning.
Though the pandemic forced the NCAA to cancel the men’s basketball tournament last year and lose $600 million in revenue as a result, March Madness is making its comeback in 2021. However, just like everything COVID-19 has touched, alterations need to be made in order to continue to keep athletes safe while still allowing them to play the game they love.
In order to limit travel during this endless pandemic, for the first time ever the NCAA has decided that the entire 68-team tournament will occur in one location: Indiana. Teams will be expected to follow specific rules and protocols, and a plan has already been developed in case any players are infected with the virus and teams need to drop out. In addition, teams will be housed on hotel floors dedicated solely to them and they will have physically distanced meetings and dining, as well as secure, dedicated transportation to-and-from competition and practice venues.
Other changes include how the brackets and teams will be handled. Geography will not be considered this year (as all teams are in the same location) and so teams will be placed into brackets based solely on rankings. Furthermore, Selection Sunday will reveal the 37 at-large selections (one more than usual), while the other 31 automatic qualifiers (one less than usual) are already known. Typically, there are 32 automatic qualifiers because of the 32 Division I conferences which all receive an automatic bid that they award to the team that wins their postseason conference tournament. This year, however, the Ivy League did not play, so there are only 31 automatic qualifiers (listed below) and, therefore, 37 at-large teams. An at-large bid is how teams that did not win their conference tournament are able to play in March Madness. A selection committee convenes and decides which teams, that were not automatic qualifiers, will compete. This past Sunday, Mar. 14, the 2021 Selection Sunday occurred, revealing the 37 teams (listed below).
A total of 67 games will be played, beginning with the First Four this Thursday, Mar. 18, and the first round will begin on Friday and Saturday, Mar. 19 and 20, respectively. Meanwhile, the Final Four are still planned to play on Apr. 3 and 5. The First Four will consist of eight teams – the four lowest-seeded at-large teams and the four lowest-seeded automatic qualifiers. The automatic qualifiers will play their fellow automatic qualifiers and the at-large teams will play their fellow at-large teams. The four teams to lose will be the first eliminated in the opening round of the tournament, leaving 64 teams when the first round begins. This is a single-elimination tournament, so once a team loses, they are out of the tournament completely.
Tune in to the Tripod for updates on this ongoing competition throughout the coming weeks and to a sports channel to watch the fun play out. You, too, can become a part of the madness this year!