Oh, Hi, Oh, Sorry, No Fans Allowed

Coming off the heels of the Ohio Governor banning large gatherings in the state (affecting Dayton’s First Four and Cleveland’s 1st/2nd Round games), the NCAA followed suit announcing (3/11/20) all March Madness games will be played without fans (in addition to all other NCAA sport tournaments such as the Frozen Four). This extreme precaution is an effort to not inadvertently contribute to mass community transmission of the coronavirus (aka, COVID-19) which has more than 126,000 confirmed cases and killed 4,638 people around the world (about 2/3rds from China). The USA has seen steady growth of daily cases and are now up to 1,312 (42 deaths, about 70% from Washington). Other sporting events have been affected as well.

Now big schools like Duke and Kansas will know what it feels like to be the Florida Marlins, Jacksonville Jaguars, or Ottawa Senators playing in front of sparse crowds with just essential staff, select media, and limited family members attending the games. The NCAA still sees incredible value for the athletes and teams who have worked hard for 1-4 years to make the big dance that, for now, the games will go on (unlike the Ivy League which just awarded Yale their entry, cancelling their conference tournament – sorry Harvard, Princeton, and Brown players). This offers the best chance at completing the tournament even if panic and chaos surrounds them in the next few weeks.

So how will this affect our 26th HWCI NCAA Pool? Nothing changes (for now) unless it is shown the virus can be transmitted via internet web entry submissions. However, possible clarifications will be:

  • For a given game, if one team forfeits (e.g., a team doesn’t want to travel), it counts as a loss just like any other outcome and their opponent will be the “winner”.
  • For a given game, if both teams forfeit, whatever method the NCAA uses to advance one of the teams to the next round (e.g., better seed advances, coin toss, coolest mascot) will be the “winner”.
  • If the tournament is postponed or paused, we will monitor and make a determination (e.g., if NCAA postpones Regional Finals/Final Four by a week or two to move into smaller arenas, we will just wait a week or two; if NCAA postpones until start of fall season (November), then we will probably refund).
  • If the tournament is cancelled, I have to go through the painful process of issuing refunds to everyone 🙂

Let’s hope and pray the coronavirus can be mitigated long enough (and hope it’s like the flu and is seasonal) for a possible vaccine next year. In the meantime, take precautions yourself and read about the latest at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention website.

Our Generosity

A few new things this year in the tournament in general — the NCAA released an early projection of the top 16 teams back on February 11 for the first-time ever and the Ivy League now has a conference tournament (though just 4 teams qualify).  It’s interesting that much has changed in the top 4 seeds but hopefully UCLA improves on their four seed and hoping USC sneaks in as a First Four team, as they have done well from that position.  Now, instead of the Ivy League regular season champion being the first automatic bid in the tournament (if there’s no extra game tiebreaker) to one of the last, as the final is on Sunday (though next year it will move up in the week).

This is an early heads-up as after the brackets are released, we will have our 7th HWCI First Four for Charity contest.  This is where we took the headache of having 68 teams (instead of 65) and made it into a fundraiser.  More than $556 has been donated to six various charities or efforts.  There is no fee to enter and you just pick the four First Four winners and margin of victory of each.  I will donate $2 per entry (remember, the entry is free and you don’t have to play in our normal $10 pool so friends and family are welcome!) and usually by the end of the tournament, my fellow players will donate a matching set or more!  Luckily, no major disasters this season so I’m open to suggestions for charity options.

My fallback will be a donation to the IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference — the flagship IEEE Conference focusing on innovation, deployment and adaptation of Technology for Humanitarian Goals and Sustainable Development.  For nearly all technical conferences, you have to pay to access papers, sometimes even your own!  At this conference, it’s Open Access — that means the papers are free to anyone so that the ideas can be shared with the most people because the goal is IMPLEMENTING the technology to those in need in the fastest way possible (boots on the ground).

Until then, Sunday is coming up fast!

Heartbreak for Harvard

March Madness will be soon upon us, minus one hour for daylight savings.  Well, the longest Division I tournament drought continues as Princeton beat Harvard on an incredible buzzer-beater in the one-game Ivy League playoff denying the Crimson an automatic bid (small chance they get in as an at-large considering the Ivy League has never had 2 teams in since the format expanded).  UConn did the improbable, winning 5 games in 5 days to not only win the Big East conference title but also showed that kids can be forced to work long, unreasonable hours and need to unionize.

We will still have the Most Wins in Conference tiebreaker but when you submit your bracket, it won’t be accurate until Thursday (due to First Four games between at-large teams).  Once we have everyone’s picks online, you can check to see how the First Four games tweaked your Most Wins in Conference.  Of course, no one cares about this until the last weekend anyway, so this isn’t a big deal.

David will be in Seattle starting Sunday and I’ll be in Phoenix starting Thursday noon but we’ll try to keep delays to a minimum.  The online bracket may not be up until Monday morning.

Harvard? Not yet…

As we head into the 2011 March Madness, it is possible the Harvard Crimson (eh?) may make the tournament.  They have a share of the Ivy League title and if Princeton loses today (starts in 30 minutes, and is only on ESPN3.com), the Crimson are in.  If not, then a one-game playoff on Saturday.  Harvard?!

As for the 2011 HWCI NCAA Pool, no changes to format or point system.  What will happen is that the First Four (games played on Tuesday/Wednesday) winners get inserted into the proper 64-team bracket (as the Opening Game winner has been since 2003).  What may happen, is that depending who wins, you may want to update your bracket (likely the #11, #12, or #13 seed).  Feel free to email the update (if it’s just one or two changes) rather than refilling a bracket before the deadline.

What will be interesting is that with TBS, TNT, and TruTV entering the mix, the schedule for Thursday-Sunday are wall-to-wall basketball, with games now separated by half-hours instead of starting 3-4 games at the same time, meaning, ideally, no games should end at the same time, so CBS has less of a chance of screwing it up.  Full tip-off times are found here.

It’ll soon begin…

Cornell becomes the first to make the field of 65.  Northern Iowa, Winthrop, ETSU, and Murray St. soon followed (all relatively recent participants).  Stony Brook missed out (I presented a tutorial there a couple years ago).  Things are shaping up… Brackets come out Sunday night!