The return of March Madness

The NCAA Tournament returns after an extended period of absence

Matan Silverberg, Sports Editor

In return from a 710 day absence, the NCAA tournament underwent its first round of games the past Friday. Despite the unusual circumstances, fans enjoyed the excitement of the tournament and felt relieved after two years of its absence.

In a typical year, the NCAA holds a series of college basketball tournaments which are known to fans as March Madness. Teams participate in conference tournaments, and winners of those tournaments as well as teams selected by a committee are invited to participate in the NCAA tournament, a 68-team single elimination tournament. 

Last year, conference tournaments were abruptly canceled due to the rising threat of COVID-19. Junior Brandon Portnoy was driving to Indiana, the setting of the BIG 10 conference tournament, when suddenly the tournament was canceled. Portnoy was upset by the cancellation.

“When I heard the BIG 10 Tournament was canceled I was so upset,” Portnoy said. “I was really excited to watch my team with my dad and brother in an exciting tournament.” 

This year, the NCAA instituted many changes to ensure safety for players and fans such as holding the tournament in sites across Indiana, rather than locations throughout the country. 

As a result of this immobility, teams lodge in hotels across Indiana. Athletic facilities are stationed within each hotel building, similar to the structure of the NBA and NHL bubbles. In an effort to promote COVID-19 safety, NCAA decided to create workout facilities within each team’s hotel. 

However, social media posts demonstrating the inequality of the facilities sparked anger and agitation among fans. Junior Zoe Fischman was glad players spoke out against the issue.

“I wasn’t really aware of the different treatment that women got like at the tournament, other than like viewership,” Fischman said. “But I was really glad that those players spoke out because it shouldn’t be that way.”

Additionally, the excitement and intensity that a full stadium of fans bring will be absent as there will be limited attendance at the tournament. Also, historically dominant programs such as Kentucky and Duke are usually popular favorites to win the tournament. This year however, for the first time since 1976, neither team made the NCAA tournament.  

Despite the unusual circumstances, fans such as Portnoy have enjoyed the excitement and unpredictability of the tournament. 

“Everything is unpredictable, you have zero clue what is going to happen and I think that it’s so cool to watch,” Portnoy said. “I am just so excited that we get this again because we’re getting double the fun of March Madness [since]…  we didn’t get it last year.