Earlier today the NCAA announced its big plans for how it will replace teams that have to drop out of the tournament with COVID issues. You can read it here if you haven’t already.
Now let’s talk about these First Four alternates and a nightmare situation that could arise.
As the policy is written, only the First Four teams out of the tournament will be considered as replacements for any tournament teams that have to bow out. Right now those First Four are Stanford, UConn, Duke and Richmond, in that order, although Duke is playing so well the Blue Devils could be the first of the four when they’re announced on Selection Sunday.
The NCAA made it clear the bracket will not be changed once it’s revealed on March 14, so if any of those four teams are called up, they will slide into whatever spot was left vacant by the team that withdrew.
So let’s say you’re our friends down at Alabama and you’re given a No. 2 seed in the tournament, as ESPN’s Bracketology currently projects. Your opponent is the No. 15 seed in your region, currently James Madison or whatever team earns the Colonial Athletic Association’s automatic bid.
But, oh no, James Madison’s starting point guard and social media manager flunked a rapid test on the way out of Harrisonburg, Virginia. Now you have to play Duke, one of the hottest teams in the country right now, in the first round? It seems incredibly unfair, but it’s the policy. We could have a 15-seed Duke or even a 16-seed Duke in the play-in game to meet Gonzaga in the first round. What a world.
Now let’s put on our tinfoil conspiracy hats. We’ll use Duke as the example again because Duke.
Let’s say Duke is indeed the first of the First Four Out, slotted as the No. 1 seed in the NIT barring any complications in the Big Dance. How are we going to believe any team that drops out to let them in? If only one team needs one slip up to put Duke in the tournament, it will absolutely happen and the nation will suspect funny business from the NCAA… Oh sorry, Colgate, it looks like the receptionist at your hotel tested positive and now we’re putting Duke in your place…. Colorado State, we regret to inform you that the pilot on your team flight was a false negative and your entire team shared an airplane with him so you can’t play. We’re calling Duke now.
Basically what I’m saying is this new rule is the Duke rule and my stance won’t change unless Kentucky benefits from it.
However, if Kentucky is one of the four alternates, ignore everything I just said and root for chaos. But that’s unlikely because Kentucky is getting in with its 32nd SEC Tournament championship.