This year saw one of the greatest and most exciting regular seasons of NCAA basketball in years.
With no stable top seed, upsets becoming the new norm, and North Carolina potentially missing the tournament, fans were itching for March to see how this season would end.
However, in true Shakespearean fashion, COVID-19 swept the world, and the sports world, leaving the 2020 NCAA tournament as a collection of “what-ifs.”
Will Duke get it together? Will the Big East continue on their year of conference dominance? Will Cinderella stories San Diego State and Dayton finish what UNLV started?
These questions will never get to be answered, as the season has been shut down by the Coronavirus.
So, the only question that can now be answered is, what next?
The NCAA has already granted an extra year of eligibility to spring athletes, and with the profitability of the NCAA tournament, it seems more likely than not that an extra year of eligibility will also be granted to basketball players.
This would gift players such as Michigan’s Zavier Simpson, Michigan State’s Cassius Winston, and Seton Hall’s Myles Powell one last chance, if they choose to take it.
This “gap year” also leaves a lot of storylines unfinished.
If I was a player in this age of the sport, I would stay in college.
The tournament is where legends are made, and where legacies are built; it is what every player anticipates, and they should not leave without playing in one.
Even NBA locks such as Duke’s Vernon Carey, Dayton’s Obi Toppin, or Maryland’s Jalen Smith should not walk out on their college careers; the NBA will always be there, March Madness will not (as well as great education, of course, but that’s for another time).
It is absolutely crucial for the NCAA to encourage players to keep playing.
If they do not feel the tournament is enticing enough to stay, then the tournament loses its momentum and its magic, and the NCAA becomes one step closer to irrelevancy in players’ path to professional careers.
This is a tragedy only comparable perhaps to the death of Julius Caesar, who, like the tournament, was killed at the height of his power and fame on the Ides of March.
And while Caesar was never able to carry on his legacy, the tournament can, and the NCAA’s next steps do matter; is it up to them to ensure that the Ides of March Madness does not poison the future of the tournament and the future of the NCAA tournament.