College basketball teams that fail to qualify for the NCAA Tournament may be able to back in as “replacement teams.”
The NCAA Division Men’s and Women’s Basketball Committees announced their COVID-19 contingency plans Thursday, spelling out what will happen in the case that a men’s or women’s tournament team needs to withdraw from the event due to issues related to the pandemic.
According to the committee, the fundamentals of the bracket will not change once it is released. Teams will not be reseeded. Therefore, if a No. 1 seed backs out of the tournament, a replacement team will fill in as a top seed.
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However, once the tournament begins, there will be no replacement teams. Furthermore, to avoid making changes in the first place, the committee said that “reasonable efforts will be made to ensure a full field is in place before the start of the championship.”
“There are separate policies for when a team is forced to withdraw: one for before the announcement of the championship field and one for after the release of the bracket,” the NCAA’s release said. “Replacement teams will only be introduced into the championship within 48 hours after the announcement of the field, and at no time thereafter.”
The committee’s final tenets are that “every participating conference should have the opportunity for a minimum of one team in the championship field,” and that “beyond the goal of having at least one team from every conference, replacement teams must be among the best teams being considered for an at-large bid.”
The men’s bracket will be announced March 14, with games slated to begin March 18. The women’s bracket, which will start March 21, will be revealed March 15.
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Both the men’s and women’s tournaments were canceled last season, as the pandemic canceled all college sports just as the conference tournaments were beginning.
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