What will March Madness look like in 2021?
Over the past months, sports fans have seen beloved tournaments take different forms, or go away all together. That includes the 2020 NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, which was scrapped just days before it was set to tip off. Teams had already secured automatic bids, travel plans had been made, and "One Shining Moment" was queued up on speakers across the country.
The cancellation of March Madness, one of the country’s most beloved sporting traditions, marked the beginning of the widespread quarantine and lifestyle changes that would come for the entire nation in the coming months. As we now begin to reemerge, let’s take a look at what next year’s madness could look like.
March Madness will look drastically different in 2021
The 2021 NCAA Tournament will no doubt be one of the most anticipated of all time, but it's hard to foresee holding it in the same manner as before.
To begin with, many of the plans for league and tournament returns include limiting the geography of contests. Both the MLS and NBA have adopted plans for resuming their seasons and continuing into postseasons that include a singular hub location for all games.
That would be a big departure for the NCAA Tournament, which traditionally sends teams all over the country to different host sites for different rounds. 68 teams criss-crossing the United States doesn’t seem feasible if a widespread vaccine is not available.
Could a single bubble city be a possibility? Many coaches and fans already have their ideas of where the tournament should be held (some joking, others not).
NBA is back. What do ya say we do this March Madness thing at Atlantis in the Bahamas?— Chris Mack (@CoachChrisMack) June 4, 2020
(for those people that will lose their mind in my mentions..... this is sarcasm.)
Younger teams could suffer
The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to result in a shorter summer training session and a possibly condensed or modified schedule for the 2020-21 season. That will be hard on all teams, but especially those that have lost key seniors and upperclassmen.
One such team is Michigan State. As if the tragedy of being robbed of Cassius Winston’s final tournament wasn’t enough, Sparty now has to figure out how to rebuild on the fly without their star guard.
Fortunately MSU still has Tom Izzo to steer the ship. Izzo’s experience will be an asset in the tumult, as will the experience of veteran coaches like John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski and many other veterans at programs around the country.
Traditional powerhouses impacted by corruption scandal
Not to be overlooked is the FBI's investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting. Oklahoma State has already been handed a one-year suspension from participating in March Madness, and other programs could face similarly harsh penalties as the NCAA continues to crack down on violators.
Dickie V. likes Gonzaga, Baby!
On the positive side, Dick Vitale isn't letting a little uncertainty get in the way of making a bold prediction about the 2020-21 season. The veteran broadcaster has picked the Gonzaga Bulldogs to win it all, without knowing anything about the potential format, or what the sport could look like nine months from now.
March Madness 2021 will be a wild celebration
If fans are allowed back in basketball arenas this season - and that remains a big if - expect them to be more rabid than ever before after waiting so long for their teams to make it to the "Big Dance".