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NCAA does not plan to return to bubble for men’s, women’s basketball tournaments this year

The organization released several new pieces of information on Wednesday

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 22 Arizona at Tennessee Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Dan Gavitt, the NCAA senior vice president in charge of basketball, said on Wednesday that the organization is not currently discussing making changes to where the men’s and women’s tournaments are played. Andy Katz reported on that the NCAA currently plans for the games to be played at the previously-designated sites.

Last season, both the men’s and women’s tournaments were played within bubbles. The men’s games were held in Indiana. The women’s tournament was held at sites around San Antonio and Austin, Tex.

The NCAA plans to return to the format of having the women play on the campuses of the top 16 seeds for the first two rounds, then proceeding to pre-selected neutral sites. The men will play at the previously-selected neutral sites around the country. The tournaments will go on as scheduled in late March and early April.

There are still decisions to be made, though. Last season, teams were only required to contest 13 games during the regular season and conference tournaments to qualify for NCAA Tournament selection. That limit reverted to the usual 25 games this year. On Dec. 20, the Pac-12 relayed an email message from the NCAA stating that the committee was watching and would consider whether to reduce the requirement again this year if it became necessary, but it was still 25 games.

With both Arizona teams joining over 160 teams who have had games already postponed, canceled, or forfeited between Dec. 29 and Jan. 2 just in the women’s Division I ranks, the ability for some teams to reach that 25-game threshold is becoming very unlikely. The committee will discuss whether they need to reduce the requirement when they meet in Indianapolis during the third week of January.

Katz and Gavitt posit that the limit may not be a problem for the men, where most teams have played an average of 12 games so far. How that applies to the women is not addressed. The problem of missed games could be much more difficult for women’s basketball than men’s, especially at Arizona where the men’s basketball program is the highest-profile program on campus and brings in considerable cash.

While the Arizona men have been able to reschedule one of their missed games so far, the women have not been so fortunate. They have already lost four games from their schedule and are in danger of losing another if Washington is unable to return to play on Jan. 9.

The men’s makeup date with Washington was announced within days of the postponement, but no word about rescheduling the women’s games against USC or UCLA has been released. The men also need to reschedule against USC and UCLA.

Last year, the women had five conference games out of 22 postponed. They were not rescheduled. The men played all 20 of their conference games, although three nonconference games were canceled and the NAU game was rescheduled.

Gavitt states that all plans could change depending on future public health indicators.