The NCAA ignored advice and decided to adhere to a normal schedule for March Madness despite a still raging global pandemic. That included holding conference tournaments then going right into the NCAA Tournament. This week we got a ton of evidence that was a terrible idea. This plan is, and always was, monumentally stupid.
Duke, Kansas and Virginia are among the most prominent college basketball programs to pull out of their conference tournaments this week due to positive COVID-19 tests. Kansas and Virginia are both ranked in the top 16 and now could face the very real prospect of being prevented from participating in NCAA Tournament next week. And, let's be real, it's highly likely other teams will suffer a similar fate.
This all lands on the NCAA, which insisted on having conference tournaments, then refused to allow a quarantine week after the regular season before those tournaments began. The organization also patently refused to move the NCAA Tournament back, which would have allowed time to quarantine between conference tournaments and the start of the big dance. The brand of "March Madness" is apparently so important, the tournament couldn't be pushed back. Which is asinine, especially since the tournament finishes in April now anyway.
This has all been mishandled at the highest levels of college basketball from the beginning. The NBA gave every league a blueprint for how to do this properly. While the NCAA did the right thing by moving the tournament to one location -- holding the entire thing within the state of Indiana -- it failed to address the obvious problem of a lack of quarantine time. Now it's far too late to adjust things and the only people who will suffer are the kids on teams that could be left out as a result.
The heart of the NCAA Tournament is the best college basketball teams in the country battling it out for supremacy, not the month it happens in. No one cares what date those games occur on, as long as they get played. Now we could be without some of those top teams. Could you imagine if an undefeated Gonzaga gets a positive test and has to pull out? Or if a Final Four team has to bow out giving an opponent a free ride to the title game? Maybe our worst fears won't be realized, there was a way to fully prevent any of it, and that's with a full bubble and time to quarantine. The NCAA refused to take any of the necessary steps.
College basketball could be on the verge of a preventable disaster and it's all because the people in charge opted for the easy route over the smart one.
Here's hoping we all get incredibly lucky and the NCAA Tournament goes off without a hitch. If there's a disaster, aim your ire at the NCAA's leadership.