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Teams Need 5 Healthy Players to Participate in 2021 NCAA Tournament, Per Exec

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2021

Vanderbilt and Texas A&M play in front of a restricted number of fans in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Southeastern Conference Tournament Wednesday, March 10, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

The NCAA tournament will have pretty loose roster requirements for March Madness teams this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"We decided if they had five players eligible and healthy, [teams can play]," NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt told reporters Wednesday. "We wrestled with contingencies, and thought it was fairest for a team that earned its way, that even if it was compromised, they should have the opportunity to play rather than be replaced."

As for what happens if a coaching staff gets hit hard by a coronavirus outbreak within a team, well, those guidelines have yet to be decided upon.

"Honestly, it's probably something we should talk about as a committee," he said of that potential scenario. 

The 68-team tournament will look much different than it has in years past, all in an effort to avoid another cancellation like last season. The entire tournament will be played in Indianapolis across 19 days, for instance, rather than holding a number of regional sites around the country. 

The Associated Press (h/t ESPN) further broke down the unique rules teams will follow at this year's tournament due to the coronavirus pandemic:

"Players will have their own rooms and teams will have their own floors at designated hotels throughout their stay in Indiana. Players and coaches will be subject to frequent virus testing and contact tracing. To augment that effort, when they're at practice and in games, players will wear devices that track their location and can keep track of people they've been in close proximity with—helpful if one of those close contacts tests positive."

Seeding the tournament will also be a unique experience, given the variety of total games played among teams this year. Some teams haven't reached the 20-game mark due to COVID-19 cancellations.

"We're looking at player availability," Barnhart said. "We're looking at who's played games and missed games. We put another component on our monitoring sheet to take into account this unique circumstance."