I Bet We See History-Making Forfeits in the NCAA Tournament
When we eventually get the COVID-19 pandemic under control, we'll step away and look back at all that changed on the strength of it.
Sports fans know exactly what I'm talking about.
What a bizarre ride the 2020 college football season has been. For starters, the PAC-12 and Big Ten conferences started later than the others and have only played league games. Because of how tight that made their schedules, any game cancellations due to COVID issues (positive tests, contact tracing) have been just that, cancellations. There has been ZERO room to postpone these games.
And now, the big boom has been lowered in the Big Ten. One of THE biggest rivalry games in college football has been cancelled. That would be Ohio State-Michigan. Now, Michigan is not very good this year and would probably have gotten creamed by the Buckeyes, but that is beside the point. The pandemic is no respecter of persons and this game is one more casualty,
In the world of college basketball, games have been cancelled or postponed, right and left, since the season began on November 25th. Just this past Saturday, I couldn't wait to get home and in front of my TV so I could watch the number one team in the country, Gonzaga, take on the nation's number two team, Baylor. It was to be the marquee matchup of the season to date. Might have been for the ENTIRE season. And we still may get to see it. But we didn't Saturday, as two members of the Gonzaga program tested positive and the game was called off, pretty close to the last minute.
The coaches of both teams, Mark Few and Scott Drew, have said it will be made up. That's the plan anyway. I certainly hope it does and that the virus doesn't have other ideas.
But all of this shuffling and postponing and cancelling brings us to the elephant in the room--the NCAA Tournament.
The Big Dance is comprised of 67 games. Since, in all likelihood, we will still be in a pandemic in mid-March, when the tournament begins, I cannot imagine that all 67 of those games get played.
I know they're discussing holding the entire three-week event in Indianapolis, which is an excellent decision. That is far safer than having 68 teams travel all over the country. And there are venues all over the city to accommodate the games.
But after what we've seen in just two weeks of college hoops action, I have a hard time believing there won't be virus issues that sideline teams during the Dance.
And that means we could see forfeits in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in history. We've seen wins forfeited AFTER the fact due to violations, but never before a game was to played.
For example, Team A wins its first round game and will move on to play Team B. But two members of Team B test positive for COVID and the game can't happen. Also, because it's a tournament, it can't be postponed either. That means Team B would have to forfeit, giving Team A an automatic win and automatic advancement into a later round, without even playing.
It's hardly the ideal scenario for ANYONE involved--the players, the schools, the NCAA, the networks, the fans. But this is the world in which we now live and this sort of thing is a REAL possibility this spring.
We could be talking about an asterisk next to the name of the team that wins the whole thing, especially if it got to advance, at some point, due to a forfeit by the other team. But honestly, forfeits anywhere in that tournament will have a huge effect on the eventual outcome.
The college basketball season has just begun and the ride only seems like it's going to get wilder.
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