NCAA Basketball Tournament During Covid-19

Will Wesson

The annual college basketball tournament, commonly known as March Madness, is a popular sporting event that averages over ten million viewers per game. It was canceled last year due to the breakout of Covid-19 and despite doubt among the sports community, the competition is on track to run beginning this March 18th. Last March 12th, the NCAA announced the cancellation of the 2020 tournament, just five days before the planned starting date of the contest. 

This year, however, a tournament like no other will be taking place. The entire competition will be held in the state of Indiana. There are six venues that will be utilized for the upcoming March Madness tournament, most of which reside in the surrounding areas of the state’s capital: Indianapolis. Each location will have different specific numbers of fans in attendance, but the general rule of thumb is that there will be approximately 25 percent of spectators at each contest. 

The rules of the competition are simple and standard relative to those of previous years. In the first official round, there will be 64 teams competing. As each round progresses, that number will decrease to half of the preceding teams, with one victory and one defeat from each match. The second round will consist of 32 teams, each having defeated their previous opponent. The next round, the Sweet Sixteen, is rather self-explanatory with 16 teams, as well as the next two rounds; the Elite Eight and the Final Four. The two victorious teams that triumph over their opponents will face each other in the championship game on April 5th at Locus Oil Stadium, home to the Indianapolis Colts.

There are some precautions that spectators in attendance are required to take in accordance with Covid-19 protocols. First off, face coverings are absolutely necessary at all times when possible. Also, the 25 percent fan capacity will allow for proper social distancing to occur. Seating pods are another method that is being used for fans to physically distance themselves from others. These pods will allow for a group of spectators that are together to safely separate from others. Interactions with student-athletes, coaches, team personnel and officials are strictly prohibited as well. Pamphlets will be distributed among arrival to ensure that those in attendance are fully aware of what is expected of them in order for the safe reintegration of sports into their lives. 

This past year has had many negative impacts almost everywhere around the globe, not limited to sports at all. While this may be less of an experience than past years, I think it’s safe to say that any attempt of March Madness is significantly better than no attempt, see: 2020.