March Madness is Even Madder in 2021

Kaya Schultz, Editor in Chief

It’s almost that time of the year folks. Time to spend hours creating a bracket that will disappoint you on the first day of games. Time to frantically watch games that you bet your month’s savings on. Time to be in complete disbelief of some of the upsets and buzzer beaters that will occur. That’s right. March Madness is back. 

Last year March was not the only month that created madness in our nation and worldwide. The NCAA announced on March 12, 2020 that the national basketball tournament would not be happening due to the newly discovered and feared Coronavirus. To the disappointment of many fans, players, and coaches, the NCAA stated that the decision was “based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, [their] ability to ensure the events do not contribute to the spread of of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time…”

After much preparation and discussion by the NCAA, people were thrilled to hear that the tournament would be back on this year. However, it will look a lot different as it has to accommodate reasonable precautions to prevent any outbreaks during the tournament and keep everyone as safe as possible. 

Usually the tournament is played all across the country with a First Four location and then Regional sites being set in various states in advance. Instead, the tournament this year will take place solely in the basketball driven state of Indiana. All of the games will be played in and around Indianapolis, where the NCAA headquarters are located. Indianapolis was also already scheduled to host the Final Four. NCAA President Mark Emmert stated, “There were a number of cities that were very interested in hosting this event, but the immediate opportunity to do this in Indianapolis was pretty self-evident for several reasons. For one, we were already going to be there.”

As for fans, the restrictions and limitations are still pretty unclear. Officials have stated that a limited number of family members of players and coaches can attend games, but they will consult local and state public health officials to determine final attendance.

The layout of the tournament is modeled to be very similar to the “bubbles” that the 2020 NBA and WNBA seasons took place in. COVID-19 testing will be conducted before each game and each team will be assigned its own floor and its own meeting spaces inside its hotel.

2019 NCAA Tournament championship: Virginia completes epic journey from last year's ugly exit to win its first title - CBSSports.com
Virginia celebrating after winning the 2019 NCAA Tournament championship.

Along with the changes to the design of the tournament, there are also many changes to the clear favorites this year. Usually we would expect legendary basketball schools like Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky to run the table but they have been dealing with very rough starts to their seasons so far, with Duke sitting at 5-5, UNC at 10-5, and Kentucky at 5-9.

Of course there are still some of the same favorites, such as the 2019 champions in Virginia, the current number 1 team in Gonzaga, the 2018 champions in Villanova, and other big schools like Baylor, Michigan, Texas, and Iowa. 

The tournament will begin on March 18th and end on April 5th and I would suggest not missing a second of these action packed weeks.