A debate has circled sports all season at every level on whether or not sports should continue to play even though the COVID-19 pandemic persists throughout the United States and the world.
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament normally covers the entire country with game sites in multiple states at multiple schools and arenas. This year, the tournament will be held in one location in Indianapolis with the Final Four set to play at Lucas Oil Stadium as originally planned.
The NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament will play entirely in San Antonio with the Final Four being played at the Alamodome.
With the NCAA seemingly answering the most important question that clouded the college basketball season for most of the year, the debate has shifted to the conference tournaments on whether or not those should be played prior to the NCAA Tournament.
West Virginia men’s basketball head coach Bob Huggins sees the conference tournaments being played mainly because there is too much money involved for the conferences and schools.
“I don’t know why there’s a discussion, I think they’re going to be played,” Huggins said. “At least the Power 5 tournaments are going to be played because there are television contracts. Television contracts and a lot of money, of which the conferences and schools get their fair share.”
For now, all conference tournaments are expected to be played as scheduled. However, many people within college basketball believe there is too much risk involved for the NCAA Tournament if conference tournaments are played.
In early January, the NCAA released its COVID-19 health guidelines to ensure that the tournament would be played as safely as possible. The guideline that has caused many people to reconsider playing the conference tournaments is that “all Tier 1 travel participants will be required to undergo and document seven consecutive negative COVID-19 tests prior to arrival into Indianapolis.”
People are using this guideline to reconsider the conference tournaments because most conferences have their tournaments playing the week before the NCAA Tournament is expected to get kicked off.
The ACC, Big 12, Pac 12 and Big East all have their conference tournament championship games scheduled for March 13. The Big Ten and SEC conference championship games are scheduled for March 14. Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament is March 14 with the First Round beginning on March 19 and 20.
West Virginia women’s basketball head coach Mike Carey expects the conference tournaments to be played as well, and he is more than ready to have those tournaments.
“We want to play every game we can play,” Carey said. “We want to play the conference tournament, hopefully we can get in the NCAA Tournament and play in that, and if they want us to play something after that, we’ll play in that. These are basketball players; they want to play games and we’re coaches, and we want to coach games.”
Some coaches have discussed the possibility of teams opting out of their conference tournaments. Louisville men’s basketball head coach Chris Mack sees teams opting out has a very real possibility.
“I do believe there will be some teams that opt out of conference tournaments knowing they’re a shoo-in for the NCAA Tournament,” Mack said in a USA TODAY article. “I would consider it. It probably wouldn’t be my decision alone. That’d be a hell of a choice.”
As of early February, the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship is expected to begin on March 10 and play through March 13. The tournament will be held at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
The Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship will begin on March 11 and play through March 14 in Kansas City, Missouri.
According to the Big 12 Conference office, details surrounding the Big 12 Conference Tournaments are still fluid at this time.