In the past two days, three different men’s college basketball programs – Duke, Virginia and Kansas – withdrew from their respective conference tournaments due to positive COVID-19 cases within their programs.
As teams across the country wrap up conference tournaments before the NCAA tournament begins next week, player safety and public health remain a concern.
The NCAA issued guidelines and protocols on how teams will be eligible to participate in the Big Dance last month.
Here’s a breakdown of the rules for how the NCAA will handle COVID-19 issues for men’s and women’s basketball tournaments:
What authorization requirements are needed for teams and their travel group to participate in the NCAA Tournament?
According to the NCAA, teams must have seven consecutive days of negative test results in order to play in Indianapolis and San Antonio. The seven-test protocol also includes people in the school’s 34-person travel group. Programs may choose to travel in smaller groups if some members of the school group are dropped due to positive testing or contact tracing.
Group members who are retained will still have to comply with the required protocols at a later date if they wish to travel.
In the Virginia-related cases, the Cavaliers (a projected No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament) will play Friday or Saturday in the tournament’s first round. Virginia has enough time to produce seven consecutive days of negative tests, but the deadline is near.
In addition to the tests, each team must have five players eligible to participate. So far, the NCAA has not stated whether it would change the schedule for teams with positive cases or contact tracing to allow them to start on Saturday, the second day of the first round.
Will players be checked after entering the NCAA tournament?
Once the team players and the school travel group have been cleared, the members of the travel group will be retested, quarantined until they produce a negative result, and daily PCR tests will be performed during the tournament.
Players will carry a SafeTag device that can be carried in their pockets, armband or lanyard to aid in contact tracing problems. Each program will be eligible to enter and remain in the tournament as long as it fulfills the mandate of five eligible players.
What will happen if a team cannot play in the NCAA tournament?
If teams are affected by COVID-19, they will be forced to retire and a contingency plan will be drawn up to replace the team.
According to the NCAA rulesIf a team has to withdraw, the first order of business is to ensure that all 31 conferences, with the exception of the Ivy League, are represented at the tournament. If a program is withdrawn from a conference with only one tournament offer, that team will be replaced by a team from the same conference.
When it comes to teams in a conference with multiple NCAA tournament offerings, then a selection will come from the general teams when the field is announced on Selection Sunday.
The top four overall ranked schools that fail to make the tournament will be considered replacement teams. Teams will be ranked from one to four and asked to continue testing the protocols. After the tournament starts next Friday, there will be no replacement teams.
Will there be seeded changes in the NCAA tournament pool?
There will be no seed changes once the tournament begins. The incoming team will occupy the position in the draw of the team it replaces.
If an automatic qualifying team is not available to play before the teams are announced, the conference may identify a replacement team. Once the field is announced, any one-bid team school will have to go through seven consecutive days of COVID-19 testing to become a replacement and represent their conference.
How will late changes to the NCAA tournament be handled?
There will be no teams joining the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments once they begin. The deadline for teams to be replaced at the respective tournaments is March 16 at 6 p.m. ET. The men’s tournament will begin on March 19 in Indianapolis and the women’s tournament will begin on March 21 in San Antonio.
For teams unable to play due to medical reasons after the deadline, the team’s opponent will advance under the NCAA no-competition rule. John Rothstein of CBS Sports reported that teams have until 11 p.m. Saturday to notify the Selection Committee if they cannot comply with medical protocols to play in the NCAA tournament.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.