The NCAA tournament kicks off with the First Four Thursday.
Those games will be played at Purdue’s Mackey Arena and IU’s Assembly Hall.
They are starting later in the week than normal NCAA tournaments because of COVID protocols and testing.
The First Four games usually get started on a Tuesday and go to a Wednesday. This year, since all the games will be here in Indiana, they shifted things around and they will all be Thursday.
First Four Schedule
6:27 p.m. (11) Drake vs. (11) Wichita State
9:57 p.m. (11) UCLA vs. (11) Michigan State
The main function of the adjusted schedule is for the health and safety protocols for everyone involved.
The late start gave the NCAA a bigger window to replace any teams that didn’t meet testing protocols. Now if any team has a positive coronavirus test and can’t compete, they are out and their opponent automatically moves to the next round.
It also gave more time for officials to figure out whether or not to allow fans in the games. A decision they decided considering Indiana’s positivity rate is down below three percent.
“Had things not improved significantly in our nation and locally here, over the last several weeks and months, I don’t know that we would be having fans,” said NCAA Senior VP of Basketball Dan Gavitt.
“But the opportunity is what our membership wanted, it’s what the local health officials were comfortable with. We’re up to 25%, the capacity numbers which I will share tomorrow, are far less than that in some venues in order to maintain physical distancing in those competition venues.”
While the teams will be in a controlled environment, NCAA officials have come up with some ways to keep them entertained. That includes turning Victory Field into a playground of sorts for outdoor activities.
“Student-athletes can go out and throw a football, kick a soccer ball, and there are cornhole and activities like that out there,” said Gavitt.
“A lot of teams brought their own activities, certainly student-athletes brought their own video games with them. We’re arranging some kind of friendly video game competition I hear once we get down to 16 teams.”
There are also plans for more activities and outdoor things as the tournament progresses.
The adjusted schedule also balances time away from campus for college students-athletes.
“We have a library set up. We have an academic resource center set up in the convention center also so student-athletes can print things if they need to for classwork or to get help with technology for their devices for schoolwork.”
There will also be laundry equipment provided for the teams to wash their gear while here.
With the adjustment in the schedule, the Final Four will have a quicker turnaround time than normal and the tournament is scheduled to wrap up with a champion being named on April 5th.