The parentheses of the NCAA basketball tournaments have been frozen, but aside from the chaos on the pitch between now and early April, the coronavirus will be an ongoing threat to improve the two college sports marquee events.
If a team in the men’s or women’s tournament does not have five eligible players for a game, the opponent will advance automatically. And although a handful of replacement teams were on standby to travel to venues in Indiana and Texas, the NCAA said Wednesday that no new teams would be added to the tournament fields.
The men’s tournament, which begins on Thursday with four warm-up games, includes 68 teams. The women’s competition, which is due to start on Sunday, has 64 teams in its field.
“The teams have been very cooperative,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA vice president for basketball, this week in Indiana, where the men’s tournament will be held. “They understand the challenges – they have mastered the challenges throughout the regular season – and so things are going pretty well right now. But nobody lets go of his guard. Nobody assumes that there will be no more challenges in the future. “
Teams for the men’s tournament have been arriving since Saturday, and the NCAA announced Wednesday that seven people tested positive for the virus after processing approximately 6,900 samples. With the association having to test a number of people associated with the tournament on a regular basis, the possibility remained that few or none of these positive results affected players or coaches.
Although no team was eliminated before the deadline this week to invite a substitute school to compete, the virus has caused turmoil at both tournaments.
Virginia, the 2019 men’s champion, won’t arrive in Indiana until later this week. His plans were delayed due to a positive test and contact tracing that quarantined most of the team. The Cavaliers, a number 4 in the West region, will play against Ohio number 13 on Saturday night.
At the women’s tournament, Connecticut, the top seed in the River Walk region, has to do without coach Geno Auriemma at least in the first game after he tested positive for the virus. If UConn avoids a surprise from high point 16, Auriemma is likely to miss his team’s game in the second round as well.
Although NCAA officials impose what is known as a “controlled environment” on teams, the protocols of which cover everything from bus travel to testing, the association’s president, Mark Emmert, admitted in an interview that cases could arise during the tournaments that are being concluded is planned for early April.
“The first goal is not serious medical problems,” said Emmert on Monday. “That doesn’t mean we don’t have teams to pull out or that someone tests positive – we’re not naive – but no serious medical problems.”