INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA tournament is on the horizon, but already some marquee teams are running into COVID issues in the conference tournaments. It’s putting some teams at risk of showing up in Indy down players or forcing them to drop out altogether.
A positive test for Duke forced the team to pull out of the ACC tournament. It has effectively ended their run at a 25th straight NCAA tournament bid. Kansas and Virginia both had to drop out of their conference tournaments for positive tests. Those two teams are now hoping to be healthy for the Big Dance.
“As a fan, as long as I can watch it, with the craziness of COVID, unlike last year when it got canceled. I think it will be good to have it no matter who is in there,” says college basketball fan Cliff Whittingstall, “I am going to go to the Big Ten Championship game. Hopefully they don’t have too many [teams] drop out, and we have a solid 64 teams.”
“Definitely nervous, just hoping it doesn’t get shut down again, and the Badgers stay clean,” says Wisconsin fan Ty Hoeft.
All players will need seven negative tests before coming to Indy. Players who do test positive now can enter the tournament later if their teams are still alive. Health experts say teams coming to Indy should feel confident in the NCAA safety protocols.
“That’s several days after they arrive in Indianapolis, after additional daily testing. By the time players end up on the court they have been tested ten or twelve times,” explains Brian Dixon Director of Public Health Informatics at the Regenstrief institute, “Teams are staying in one place just like all the NBA teams. They are not allowed to interact with fans. It’s probably even more restrictive than what we saw in the NBA. NBA players had probably a bit more flexibility to see their families for example. NCAA players can’t see their family during tournament. Families may be able to come to Indy to watch the games but won’t be able to interact with them.”
For those players who test positive and are trying to get into the tournament after being cleared, Dixon says there may still be residual effects to their performance even after recovering from the illness.