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ACC coaches want to invite all teams to NCAA tournament

“The ability to incentivize the regular season without mandating a select number of non-conference and conference games provides options and flexibility for all member institutions,” Louisville Coach Chris Mack said in a statement.

Last year, 353 teams played in Division I. A few programs, including Oklahoma State, are ineligible for this year’s tournament. If the NCAA uses a traditional single-elimination bracket, a field of roughly 350 teams would add three rounds of games to the postseason. The tournament with a typical field of 68 teams, including eight that compete in the First Four play-in games, takes place over three weekends with six rounds of games. Seeding a massive field of teams would present a significant challenge.

This radical idea would, however, give coaches and players reassurance as they navigate a strange regular season that could feature delays and postponements. Multiple outlets have reported the season could begin in late November or early December, and the NCAA’s Division I Council could vote on that start date when it meets next week.

“This is what’s best for our student-athletes, fans and the sport of college basketball,” Wake Forest Coach Steve Forbes said in a statement.

When the Pac-12 announced its decision to postpone fall sports, the conference said its schools wouldn’t compete until at least January. With basketball seasons usually starting in November, the Pac-12 would need to change that decision for its teams to play anything that resembles a typical schedule. The Pac-12 announced last week a partnership with a diagnostic health care manufacturer that would offer daily testing with rapid results.

“This is a major step toward the safe resumption of Pac-12 sport competitions,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “The availability of a reliable test that can be administered daily, with almost immediate results, addresses one of the key concerns that was expressed by our medical advisory committee, as well as by student-athletes, coaches and others.”

Professional sports leagues have successfully returned to play amid the pandemic by relying on bubble environments that keep players and team personnel in a confined space away from the public. Creating a similar setup is difficult at the college level because of the NCAA’s stance that athletes should be considered regular students at their university.

“There’s a way to do it,” Emmert said in a video. “Will it be normal? Of course not. You’ll be playing fall sport in the spring. Will it create other conflicts and challenges? Of course. But is it doable? Yeah. It is doable. And we want to do that. We want to make it work for these students.”

College basketball teams frequently compete in tournaments around Thanksgiving that give them a few nonconference games over a short period. These tournaments could offer programs an opportunity to compete in a bubblelike environment. Some are reportedly planning to expand the field and play more games over a longer stretch to take advantage of this setup.

Some of the colleges that are holding in-person classes adjusted the semester schedule so that students will not return after Thanksgiving — an effort to prevent the virus from spreading as a result of students traveling to and from their hometowns. Those weeks between semesters, when campuses are mostly empty, could also be an ideal time for games.

Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball, told ESPN that officials have discussed playing college basketball games inside bubbles. The NCAA reportedly filed a trademark for the phrase “Battle in the Bubble.”

Last year’s NCAA tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus, which shut down sports in the United States just as the college basketball postseason was beginning. The loss of the tournament, and the TV revenue it generates, cost the association millions, which trickled down to schools that rely on this distribution check from the NCAA. Many college basketball coaches have expressed confidence that the tournament will not be canceled again.

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