DAYTON, Ohio — It is to be as much a part of this NCAA tournament as cutting down the nets. After each game, a large bracket will be carried into the locker room of the winning team, where a player will be selected to take a card with the team’s name and place it on the next round.

Survive and advance . . . and then have a ceremony to make it even more real.

“It was something the committee had been talking about for a while; how do we make the bracket more part of the experience for the student-athletes in their journey through the tournament?” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of basketball. “We’re excited about it.”

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So were the first two teams to do it Tuesday night at the First Four, with each team going a different direction in selecting the player to do the honors. Radford was first and went for freshman walk-on Anias Saunders. St. Bonaventure opted for senior star Jaylen Adams. Their scoring averages might be different, but the result was the same:

The label goes on, the cheers go up, and then it’s time to move on to the next round.

“Hopefully it will catch fire as kids see it on social media and realize that’s one part of this journey and experience,” Gavitt said. “I’m sure that over time, it’ll build into something they really look forward to.”

Mike Lopresti is a member of the US Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, Ball State journalism Hall of Fame and Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame. He has covered college basketball for 43 years, including 38 Final Fours. He is so old he covered Bob Knight when he had dark hair and basketball shorts were actually short.
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