The NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments are scheduled to go on as planned in March and early April at the selected sites.
Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president in charge of basketball, said there has been no discussion of going back to a bubble at this point like what occurred last March during the pandemic.
A major difference this season, despite the rush of cancelations and postponements in the past 10 days, is the season started on time, as well as all of the mitigation aspects to combat the virus, like vaccines and boosters.
“At this point, we are continuing the planning for the NCAA basketball championships with the normal format, schedule and multiple host sites,’’ said Gavitt. The men’s Final Four is scheduled to be held in New Orleans while the women’s Final Four is slated for Minneapolis.
“We are certainly closely monitoring the unfortunate and sudden COVID spike and will consider any adjustments as necessary for the health, safety and success of the championships. However, despite the current challenges we’re experiencing in college basketball, the solutions to these problems during this phase of the pandemic are likely quite different than the dramatic championship format changes we had to adopt last year.”
A year ago, the college basketball season started two weeks later, condensing the season and limiting the number of dates to handle makeup dates. That meant a need to reduce the minimum number of games to be eligible for the NCAA tournament to 13. The selection committees will discuss this matter at the NCAA convention the third week of January in Indianapolis. The majority of Division I teams have played an average of 12 games already this season, making the need for a minimum not as necessary.
Conferences, not the NCAA control the regular season and only schools and conferences can determine if a team can play a game or if the game would be rescheduled. Conferences have already begun to reschedule games this weekend. The consensus is that most teams would be able to play at least 25 games by the season’s end.
“Games that do not get played are declared no contests while the committee is aware of these games, they are not part of a team’s resume and therefore will not be part of the committee’s evaluation,’’ said David Worlock, the NCAA’s director of media coordination and statistics.
“I feel badly for the many teams that have been impacted with a pause and disrupted games so suddenly in just the last two weeks, yet the health and safety of student-athletes and coaches is rightly the primary concern,’’ Gavitt said. “It seems likely that we will continue to experience game postponements for the next couple of weeks due to the Omicron variant. The conferences and institutions are exercising their authority over the management of the regular season, which largely consists of conference games.
“The silver lining in the timing of this spike is that the vast majority of the non-conference schedule has concluded and teams on average have played 12 Division I games to date,’’ said Gavitt. “The championship and oversight committees are monitoring the ramifications of games lost to cancellation in the context of championship eligibility, which is within their authority and will be discussed during their January meetings."
COLLEGE BASKETBALL RANKINGS: Villanova rejoins Andy Katz's latest Power 36
The NCAA also doesn’t mandate how schools test, either. They advise and are at the mercy of local health departments.
“The NCAA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group is comprised of member school representatives and leading experts in infectious disease, sport security and public health,’’ said Dr. Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s Chief Medical Officer. “This group provides guidance to the NCAA member schools regarding safely re-socializing sport, and the ultimate decision-making occurs at the school level in conjunction with local public health authorities.’’
Hainline added the NCAA Medical Advisory Group has always been aligned with the CDC but hasn’t met this past week since the latest outbreak.