March Madness is Back!

NCAA takes new initiatives to keep college basketball safe during COVID-19.

Photo by New York Times

NCAA takes new initiatives to keep college basketball safe during COVID-19.


After a disappointing end in 2020, when sports and NCAA’s March Madness tournament were abruptly canceled for the pandemic, college basketball is back in full swing. Although there have been some hiccups along the way, we are entering the tail-end of the regular season that features mostly in-conference games for COVID-19 safety. This year is full of many storylines and has produced quality basketball to watch. 


In local news, Pitt’s men’s ball sits in the upper half of the Atlantic Coast Conference and the women sit near the bottom. Pitt women’s 2 conference wins were both upset wins against Clemson. They also picked up a win against Boston College late in the season. The women’s team is competing in a shortened ACC, with canceled and postponed games and women’s teams such as Duke, UVA (Virginia) canceling their season due to Covid-19 issues. On the men’s side of things, they are fighting for their place in the ACC. They have some good wins and some bad losses. Early in the season, they swept longtime conference rivals from their Big East days Syracuse. They also took down an intimidating Duke team at home for the second time ever since joining the ACC in the 2013-14 season. After big wins early, they took a slide, losing to Wake Forest and Notre Dame, two of the weaker teams in the conference. They also put up fights against UNC (North Carolina) and UVA (Virginia) but did come out with an upset win against Virginia Tech. Since then, Pitt has dropped every game since, putting them farther and farther from a possibility of a March Madness tournament bid. On the bright side, Pitt’s sophomore guard Justin Champagnie made the first-team All-ACC team, the first Pitt player in program history to do so.

New Covid Guidelines enforce mask-wearing and social distancing to those not on the court during games. (The Seattle Times)

As Andy Katz’s Bracketology comes out predicting who he thinks will make the NCAA March Madness tournament, it is apparent that the Big 10 conference is a powerhouse this year with where it looks like every team is a good team. Conference tournaments are around the corner, the final destination for some, but just the beginning of their post-season play. 68 teams from Division 1 schools will play in the March Madness tournament. While many power 5 conferences will have multiple teams in, the other confesses will send their division winners to the dance. This year, due to Covid-19, the tournament is staying in the state of Indiana this year with multiple locations being used in Indianapolis, Bloomington, and West Lafayette. This year the NCAA is allowing 25% capacity for tournament games. Last year the NCAA lost about 800 million dollars from the cancellation of last year’s tournament according to Sportico. The March Madness tournament makes about 75% percent of its yearly revenue from the month-long tournament alone.


This year, many schools didn’t allow fans in the arenas to support their classmates. Many arenas were filled with cardboard cutouts and spread-out team personnel. While games looked the same on the court, the cardboard cutouts do not do the raging student section of fans justice. By the later part of the season in early 2021, fans at some schools started coming to the games in limited numbers. Still, with limited fans and both men and women’s games, the arena was eerily quiet, hearing every dribble and shoe screech in an otherwise buzzing atmosphere.


Starting with the conference tournaments, this year’s tournament will surely be exciting. There are many teams that look good enough to make a push for finals but there are also an equal amount of teams that can upset those teams. With fans’ disappointment from last year, there will likely be an exciting atmosphere in arenas, schools, bars, and couches alike.

Cardboard cutouts replace fans and the atmosphere they create in many colleges this year due to Covid-19. (Morry Gash , AP)