PONTIFICATING FROM THE SUNSHINE STATE – APRIL 6
By Leo Haggerty
TAKEAWAYS FROM THE COVID HOOPS TOURNEY
Before I start, kudos to all the teams that participated in the Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament. Whether the NCAA wants to recognize the fact that, by being able to complete both tournaments, those programs saved the organization from possible bankruptcy is a subject that I will definitely delve into at a later date.
Also, you’re probably wondering why the photo I chose to represent this article is from 2019. That’s because the last time the victorious team “cut down the nets” was then. Another “one shining moment” lost to the pandemic.
With that being said, there were protocols that the NCAA was forced to accept so that both tournaments had a chance of completing. Below are the ones that I believe need to be kept as the powers that be plan for future tourneys.
First, go to one central location for the entire tournament. I realize this will upset some cities that are expecting to host first and second round contest along with the Sweet 16 as well as the Elite Eight tilts but this makes too much sense. You would have all 68 teams invited to participate in the Men’s tournament in one city and the 64 programs that have been select to compete in the Women’s tourney in another location.
The nice thing is that the only prerequisite is that there are four arenas of decent size within a reasonable distance of the city hosting the games. This would cut travel costs exponentially because it would be one flight in and one flight out when you are eliminated or the tournament has reached a conclusion.
Second, compress the tournament dates. Play the first round men’s games on Saturday and Sunday with the second round contests on Monday and Tuesday. Start the first round women’s tilts on Friday and Saturday then tip off the second round on Sunday and Monday. That way both tournaments have one day where they are the “only act” on the schedule.
Do the same for the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight match ups. Women every other day starting Friday and concluding on Monday with the men beginning on Saturday and finishing on Tuesday.
That takes us to The Final Four. Women’s semifinals on Friday and finals on Sunday. Men’s semis on Saturday and finals on Monday.
Finally, house all the tournament teams at one hotel. That way, if there is information that needs to be disseminated immediately, it can be done in the most expedient manner with all programs located at the same venue.
Well, there you have it. The three things that the pandemic forced upon the NCAA just to get through the 2020 version of March Madness that I believe should be incorporated into future tournaments.
Will it happen next year? Probably not because there are commitments in place for sites to host certain segments of the tournament. When those contract expire, look for some of the above mentioned proposed changes to become reality. Maybe even all of them.