We have all heard the term “cancel culture” well before the global pandemic that is Covid-19, but those words have taken on a new hue in light of the reality facing professional and amateur sports. In what should have been a month filled with thrills and chills of the best collegiate basketball players in the world, it is instead one devoid of anything resembling what we have come to know and love as March Madness.
As we all know, the NCAA decided to cancel all remaining NCAA winter and spring championships nor would there be any bracket releases for the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
A statement issued by NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball, Dan Gavitt, said in part, “The world is experiencing a challenging health crisis with the coronavirus pandemic. It is an unsettling and concerning time in our history.
“For those of us who love and treasure college basketball, it has resulted in the cancellation of NCAA basketball championships and an empty month that otherwise would be filled with tremendous excitement. The disappointment and heartbreak we all feel for student-athletes unable to compete are significant, yet nothing is ever more important than the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches and fans.”
There are many who asked that the brackets be released to acknowledge those schools that put together a winning program, allowing fans and pundits alike to analyze the seedings of the teams. It would provide a welcomed surrogate to those pining for the band to play at the Big Dance but Gavitt and his cohorts concluded that such a step would be detrimental, considering there were still 19 men’s and 18 women’s conference tournaments yet to play and a total of 132 men’s and 81 women’s games left in abeyance.
Gavitt stated, “Brackets based on hypotheticals can’t substitute for a complete selection, seeding and bracketing process. There will always be an asterisk next to the 2020 NCAA men’s and women’s basketball championships regardless if brackets are released. There is not an authentic way to produce tournament fields and brackets at this point without speculating and that isn’t fair to the teams that would be positively or negatively impacted by manufacturing March Madness.”
It’s hard to argue with such an approach even though a manufactured bracket would be like catnip to college hoops fans. They don’t play these games on paper and conference tournaments are held for a reason because every now and again there is an unheralded team that wakes up in the postseason and slays the mighty dragons.
Those teams would be unaccounted for and the slight separation between national powerhouses and conference rivals like Florida State, Virginia, Louisville, and Duke all battling for an ACC title and top-tier seeds in the national tournament, would be left to speculation.
Or how about the Big Ten where we see a logjam between Wisconsin, Michigan State, Maryland, and Illinois? Even the Big East boasts a battle for conference supremacy between Creighton, Villanova, and Seton Hall. Those will be questions never answered but speculating as to which team is the best is not the job for the NCAA until the results are in and the performances reviewed.
Refunds to all NCAA basketball events will be issued within 30 days after the date of cancellation but perhaps the most important and overriding concern is keeping college basketball, and sports in general, in perspective. No one would dispute that the safety, health, and welfare of citizens everywhere supersedes athletic competition and the pleasure derived from millions of fans throughout the world.
Gavitt closes his press release with the following, “More importantly, in light of this global health crisis, I believe we need to keep college basketball in perspective. To be clear, this is my decision. The basketball committees support and concur. Basketball family, please stay safe and I pray for the health of you and your loved ones. We will get through this pandemic and disappointing month of March together.”
It’s hard to argue against the NCAA’s response to this medical calamity laying siege to humanity and if it’s any consolation, this too shall pass. At some point, hopefully in the not too distant future, we will be talking about how we all rallied together to defeat the biggest adversary many of us have witnessed in our lifetimes — and that would be something worth celebrating.
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