NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

March madness

The storied tradition of the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament continues in 2021 after a one-year hiatus. The 2020 March Madness tournament was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At that point March Madness was one of the very first things to be canceled and what COVID is today, was then unknown. Canceling the tournament last march seemed like a head scratching move, but was the right move based on what is known now. Fast forward to 2021, they NCAA faced the same issue as they did in 2020. The difference in 2021; March Madness was a go.

The classic 64 team format remained intact, and the NCAA held all teams in a bubble in Indianapolis to make the environment more controllable. According to The Washington Post teams were held to extremely strict protocols to ensure there will not be a public health crisis.

Teams and players are restricted to their hotel rooms and may only walk downtown Indianapolis through skywalks connected to their hotels. Mask mandates will also be always enforced except when on the court. The NCAA is taking every little precaution to make sure their biggest grossing event happens in 2021.

The extensive protocols set by the NCAA were in large part successful. 63 of 64 teams made it through multiple rounds of testing, leaving one outlier. The lone team to not make it through protocols was Virginia Commonwealth unfortunately ending their tournament run before it even started.

VCU was required to forfeit their first-round matchup against Oregon, putting an end to their season in unfortunate fashion.  Other than this one unfortunate situation, the NCAA has done an excellent job of keeping the tournament a safe environment for its student-athletes.  Local athletes can relate to VCU’s situation, of being shut down.

Pentucket High School Senior Michael Perlitch is remarkably familiar with this sort of situation.

Perlitch has had stints of his basketball and football seasons canceled due to COVID concerns within the program. Perlitch was asked to give advice to the VCU team after going through a comparable situation.

“It is definitely difficult for your season to end like that but be positive about the way your season went prior. Making the tournament is an accomplishment within itself.”

Perlitch gave some great insight and clamored for VCU to feel lucky they had a season to begin with.

A local athlete who competes collegiately, Will Coppola also had some thoughts on this. Coppola is a sophomore on the Saint Mikes University Mens Cross Country team and graduated from Pentucket High School in 2019. Saint Mikes had their entire season canceled in the fall because of COVID.

However, Coppola understands why March Madness was allowed but not Cross country, but he still offered his advice to VCU, “Don’t let one game getting canceled prevent you from doing other important things in life.”

Coppola really put it in perspective from a fellow collegiate athlete.

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