NCAA VP of men's basketball tried to save March Madness with a 5-day, 16-team tourney
Yes, March Madness is canceled for 2020.
Nobody’s happy about it, but was it the right decision to be made? The experts certainly think so. That’s why it happened.
But, what if there were a way to still have a tournament? Of course, that won’t happen, but the NCAA VP of men’s basketball — Dan Gavitt — tried to make it happen as late as Wednesday night. In the end, by Thursday, that dream was lost.
According to Ralph Russo of the Associated Press, Gavitt was thinking of making a 16-team mini tournament a reality once he heard the NBA was suspending its season:
“We did spend a significant amount of time very late Wednesday night trying to figure out alternative models.”
From Russo: “Gavitt said the hope was to play games starting March 26 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. The city had been scheduled to host the Final Four at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on April 4 and 6.
“The idea was to have the selection committee choose the top 16 teams in the country, regardless of conference, to participate. The first three rounds would have been played from March 26-28, with a championship game on March 30. Gavitt said he believes eight or nine of the 32 Division I conferences could have been represented.”
Here’s Gavitt on what could have been:
“Far from ideal. Far from perfect. Imperfect as it may be, that was one of the only reasonable options we thought we could at least maintain some level of our tournaments.
“There was a real concern about not being inclusive enough, with only 16 teams. But the other thing that was in play at that point in committee members’ minds, and we saw this play out at conference tournaments, once an NBA player was infected, I think it started to really hit home for the players, from what I’ve heard from coaches by text message and anecdotally.”
Surely, part of the problem was the health of everybody involved and how safe a 16-team, quick tournament would be. But as Gavitt said, it seemed to really hit home for basketball players once NBA players were announced as being infected by the coronavirus.
A 16-team tournament not involving every conference champion? It would be fun seeing “the best 16 teams” battle it out over the course of five days. But boy, would there have been backlash from just about every team that wasn’t considered to be a “top 16 team.”