The NCAA Tournament swings into action this evening with its 4 play-in games. Even before the first layup line takes place, there has been a COVID-19 angle to the event in Indianapolis; the NCAA had to send home 6 of the officials who were selected to officiate the games. A positive test for one of the officials disqualified him and contact tracing protocols revealed close contact with the “infected official” by five other officials. The NCAA had anticipated the potential for officials to become infected and had invited 4 “spare officials” to Indianapolis to cover for any that might need to be sent home. According to tournament organizers, those 4 officials will now be put in the regular rotation and that they will not be inviting any other “spare officials” to Indianapolis.
Originally, the NCAA had planned to have 4 teams waiting in the wings just in case one of the tournament teams cannot make it to their opening game due to pandemic protocols. The idea was, if that happens, one of those 4 stand-by teams will be substituted into the bracket. That was to apply only to the first game in the bracket; after that round, if a team could not put 5 eligible players on the court for a game, the opponent would be declared the winner and would advance.
Yesterday, the NY Times reported that the NCAA had reversed course and that there would be no “substitute teams” even in the first round of the tournament. At some point, someone somewhere is going to use this ”disappointing circumstance” to justify a call to expand the tournament beyond 68 teams. I will take this opportunity before the fact to label that “justification” as BALDERDASH!
In the tournament field this year, there is a team that arrives with a record that I have never seen in normal times. The Colgate Red Raiders are seeded #14 in their bracket and will face the Arkansas Razorbacks tomorrow. Here is the oddity of the Colgate schedule and record:
- Colgate is in the Patriot League and the conference schedule was altered in response to COVID-19. They played no out-of-conference games.
- Colgate is 14-1 as of today. However, they have only faced 5 opponents. Colgate is 5-0 against Boston University, 4-0 against Holy Cross, 3-1 against Army, 1-0 against Bucknell and 1-0 against Loyola.
- Colgate is a high-scoring team – against Patriot League opposition. In 5 of their 15 games, they have scored more than 90 points and in two games they scored more than 100 points.
Colgate and Arkansas meet tomorrow at 12:45 PM EDT. The game will be on truTV. I will use that game as one of my anchors during that time slot because I want to see how Colgate can stand up to an SEC team that had a 22-6 record this year. If you want to check out the game, you probably should spend a moment today to find truTV on your cable system. I have not watched any truTV programming since the NCAA Tournament two years ago and I had to “re-discover truTV” and it whereabouts…
Indianapolis is also the scene for sports news in a different sport today. Now that the trade for Carson Wentz from the Eagles to the Colts is official, there will be an introductory press conference in Indy organized by the Colts. These sorts of introductory press conferences are not unusual and rarely if ever produce anything other than unbridled optimism and total joy on the part of all participants. I cannot recall a new player or a new coach saying at his introductory press conference that he would rather be just about anywhere else. However, there is a wrinkle in the press conference scheduled for later today:
- The Philly press that covers the Eagles is not invited; and if they show up, they will not be allowed to ask any questions according to one of the Eagles’ beat reporters from the Philadelphia Inquirer.
This is not a good “optic” notwithstanding the fact that the press in Philly can be dogged and aggressive in their questioning. Here is the issue:
- Whether or not this was reality, there were reports that part of the schism between Wentz and the Eagles’ coaching staff was his unwillingness to take “tough coaching”.
- Staging his inaugural event in Indy as one where “tough questions” would be avoided simply by precluding anyone who might be predisposed to ask a tough question plays into the “doesn’t like tough coaching narrative”.
- In defense of the Colts’ decision here, Carson Wentz’ departure from Philadelphia involved a rupture between the team and the player AND it also involved a rupture between the player and the local media. Carson Wentz was benched at halftime of a loss to the Packers in the first week of December. He refused to speak to anyone in the press in Philly since then. It is not unreasonable on the part of the Colts’ communications mavens to anticipate the potential for a suboptimal circumstance there.
Finally, speaking of NFL QBs and staged press events where the world is viewed through rose colored glasses, consider this point made by Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:
“Straight talk: Ron Rivera’s disclosure that he was afraid to play Alex Smith last season for fear the Washington Football Team quarterback would injure his surgically repaired leg again — ‘I struggled with that every day’ — is as honest and human a response as you’ll hear from an NFL coach.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………