NCAA will replace COVID-19 teams

- Erick Smith

Should any teams selected to the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournament­s be impacted by COVID-19 and forced to withdraw, there is a contingenc­y plan to quickly replace the school in the bracket.

There will not be any replacemen­ts once the tournament­s begin, however.

The NCAA detailed the plan in an announceme­nt Thursday ahead of Selection Sunday for the men’s field March 14 and the women’s field March 15.

The first priority in replacing any team will be to ensure that all 31 conference­s playing will be represente­d. That would mean if a school from a one-bid league drops out then it would be replaced by a team from the same league. Should the team withdrawin­g be from a conference with multiple bids then a selection would be made from those atlarge teams considered when the field was announced.

One significan­t part of the plan: There will be no seeding changes once the field is released. The incoming team will assume the position in the bracket of the team it replaces.

Should any automatic qualifier be deemed unavailabl­e to play before the bracket is announced, the conference may specify a replacemen­t based on criteria submitted before Friday.

The highest-ranked four at-large schools that are not included in the field can be considered replacemen­t teams. The teams will be ordered one through four and be required to continue testing protocols for COVID-19 in case they are later considered as a replacemen­t.

Once the field is announced, any school from a single-bid league would have to pass seven consecutiv­e days of COVID-19 tests to be allowed in the field.

The deadline for replacing teams in the men’s and women’s tournament is March 16 at 6 p.m. ET. The men’s tournament starts March 19 in the Indianapol­is area. The women’s tournament starts March 21 in San Antonio.

If any team is forced out for medical reasons, then its opponent would advance.

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