At this point, would anything be a surprise during the most unusual season in college basketball history?
The chatter continues nationally about the viability of staging conference tournaments during the COVID-19 pandemic and their potential impact on March Madness. After Gonzaga’s 82-71 win over BYU on Monday, Zags coach Mark Few was asked on ESPN about the West Coast Conference Tournament, which is typically played at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
“Especially in a conference like ours, actually in any conference, it’s about how many wins we all can accrue in the NCAA Tournament,” Few said. “That’s how all the schools get their money, so that has to be part of it.
“However, we want to play games. My guys live to play and I don’t necessarily know that we want to take three weeks off (prior to the NCAA Tournament). But I think there’s probably a way to do it and it probably isn’t gathering all 10 teams down in Vegas. Whether it’s taking the top three to Spokane and playing it off after they settle it earlier or something along those lines, everybody has put some good thought into it and I think we’ll come to a good conclusion when it’s time.”
Few and GU athletic director Mike Roth have brainstormed about the Spokane scenario among numerous alternatives to the existing format.
“I thought Mark handled the question pretty well,” Roth said.
Whether it has any traction with WCC decision makers remains to be seen.
“As Mark said, there’s a lot of different discussions and ideas going on from one side all the way to the other, from the status quo all the way to the extreme on the other side: Do we even hold a tournament?” Roth said. “That continues to get national attention, at least in the media. Should teams have tournaments in relation to the risks of COVID?”
UCLA coach Mick Cronin told CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein he was “very concerned” about playing the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas during a pandemic. The Big Ten Tournament is moving from Chicago to Indianapolis, site of the NCAA Tournament, which could make it easier to comply with testing and safety protocols.
The NCAA is requiring Tier 1 personnel, which includes players and coaches, to have seven consecutive negative tests before arriving in Indianapolis.
“There’s so many moving parts to all this it’s mind-boggling. We just need to do our best to keep our kids and staff safe and continue to have an opportunity to play,” Roth said. “I think everyone is focused on, let’s get the best teams to the NCAA Tournament and have earned the right to be there. And let’s make sure they get there healthy.
“The NCAA is going to run a very tight ship from all indications. It doesn’t matter what name is on your jersey, if you have a COVID problem at the wrong time seven days leading into Indianapolis, you probably don’t get to play.”
Five WCC teams were on COVID breaks last week. Seven conference games were played and 16 were postponed from Jan. 28 through Gonzaga’s win Monday night.
The WCC Tournament is scheduled for March 4-9 in Las Vegas. That leaves time for additional discussions, but a final decision should be coming soon regarding the tournament.
“If we were to say we’re setting it in stone, this is what we’re going to do, I don’t believe that would be prudent at this point based on how things continue to change,” Roth said.
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