The men’s and women’s NCAA Tournament and National Invitation Tournament are back this season with a few coronavirus-induced changes after last year’s tournaments were canceled due to the initial start of the coronavirus pandemic.
With Seton Hall likely to be involved in these postseason tournaments, here are some answers to a few frequently asked questions regarding each of the tournaments.
When and where will the NIT and NCAA Tournament be held?
The men’s NCAA Tournament will solely be played in Indiana across six venues in three different cities: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse and Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis, Mackey Arena in West Lafayette and Assembly Hall in Bloomington. The first-four will play on March 18, and the Final Four will play between April 3-5 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The women’s NCAA Tournament is scheduled to start on March 21. The first round will be played across five venues in three cities in Texas: the Alamodome, Bill Greehey Arena and UTSA Convocation Center in San Antonio, Frank Erwin Center in Austin and University Events Center in San Marcos. The tournament will conclude on April 4 with the National Championship being played at the Alamodome.
The men’s NIT will also be held in Texas with the first round taking place between March 17-20. The Comerica Center in Frisco and the UNT Coliseum in Denton will serve as host venues for the tournament, but specific venues for each round are still being finalized, as per the NCAA.
The WNIT will be the only tournament to take place across state borders, with each of its four regions being held at the Bojangles Coliseum in North Carolina, the Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center in Texas, Collierville High School in Tennessee and the UW Health Sports Factory in Illinois. The first round is scheduled to start on March 19, and the four regional champions will advance to an unnamed site for the semifinals and championship game.
There will be an eight-team championship bracket and a four-team consolation bracket for teams who lose their first-round game at each location.
When will teams be selected?
Selection Sunday for the men’s NCAA Tournament will be aired on CBS on March 14, and the 68-team field will be revealed. There will be 31 automatic qualifiers since the Ivy League opted out of winter sports and 37 at-large bids.
Unlike previous seasons, the tournament’s brackets will be based on rankings without the usual considerations for geography after the First Four games.
This season, each conference was given the choice to award their automatic bid to the regular season champion or conference tournament champion, but the Big East decided to stick with the usual format of the conference tournament winner receiving the automatic bid.
The 64-team field for the women’s NCAA Tournament will be revealed on March 15 with 31 teams receiving an automatic bid and 33 teams being selected as at-large teams.
The teams that will participate in this year’s men’s NIT will be revealed on March 14. This year’s field of teams has been reduced from the usual 32 to 16 teams. Due to the reduced field, all 16 teams will be at-large selections, with no automatic qualifiers.
The WNIT will feature 32 teams that will be announced after the women’s NCAA Tournament teams are announced. There will be a to-be-determined number of automatic berths awarded to conference regular season champions with the remaining berths awarded to at-large teams. This year’s tournament does not require potential participants to have a record .500 or better or have played a specific minimum number of games.
What if a team tests positive for coronavirus?
Should a team from either the men’s or women’s NCAA Tournament field contract coronavirus and be forced to withdraw from the tournament after the announcement of the championship field, no replacement team shall be selected to take their place. Replacement teams will only be introduced within 48 hours after the announcement of the field.
Automatic qualifiers who are unable to meet medical protocols to participate can be replaced by a designated team that was determined by the conference’s decision to award their automatic bid to either their conference tournament or regular season champion.
Potential men’s at-large teams that are determined by the institution to be unable to meet the medical protocols and participate in its first game of the championship must notify the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee by 11 p.m. local time on March 13. Women’s at-large teams must notify the Division I women’s Basketball Committee by 11 p.m. on March 14.
For any single-bid conference, the league may replace its automatic qualifier after the announcement of the championship field if the replacement team can produce seven consecutive daily negative tests. The replacement team from the conference will take the place of its fellow conference member in the same place on the bracket.
The deadline for consideration of replacing a team is March 16 at 6 p.m. Eastern time. No replacement team will be introduced into the NCAA championship bracket after the deadline. No team will replace a team that has a coronavirus-related issue and must withdraw after the tournament has begun. Its opponent would advance to the next round via the no-contest rule.
The top four seeds of the NIT will be ranked 1-4 to replace teams from multi-bid conferences, but they will still be No. 1 seeds in the NIT and compete in the first round of the tournament should they not replace a team in the NCAA Tournament.
What are the tournament protocols for coronavirus?
All Tier 1 participants will be required to undergo and document seven consecutive negative COVID-19 tests prior to arrival in Indianapolis for the men’s NCAA Tournament. The NCAA will work in conjunction with IU Health to administer daily PCR tests as well as provide other forms of health-related support to student-athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists, medical staff, equipment staff and officials.
All teams participating will have charter buses or planes arranged for them by the NCAA and be housed in Marion County hotels for the duration of their participation. Meals will either be in-room or in physically distanced meal rooms with assigned seating.
All Tier 1 participants will also wear KINEXON contact tracing devices throughout the tournament, including games and practices.
“These devices, coupled with video analysis, provide data that allows total time measurement of those who are within 6 feet of a newly infected individual with COVID-19,” the NCAA’s announcement on health and safety protocols said. “The data will be utilized to assist with contact tracing and the need to quarantine participants. If close contact time with another individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 is less than 15 minutes over 24 hours, then quarantine may not be required.”
The women’s NCAA Tournament will follow similar protocols but will be serviced by Diamond Health for coronavirus tests and health support. Teams will be housed in Bexar County hotels and wear contact tracing devices like the men’s teams throughout the tournament.
Will fans be in attendance?
The NCAA will allow up to 25% capacity with physical distancing for all rounds and the Final Four of the men’s tournament. The event capacity will include all participants, essential staff and family members of each participating team’s student-athletes and coaches and a reduced number of fans. All attendees must wear face coverings.
On the women’s side, the NCAA will allow a 17% capacity at each venue from the Sweet 16 to the Final Four.
It is still unconfirmed whether the NIT or WNIT will be allowed to have fans in attendance for any portion of their tournaments.
Justin Sousa can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinSousa99.