The highly anticipated NCAAM basketball season kicks off for the first time without fans

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Dylan Epstein, Staff Writer

Men’s college basketball has just started up again for the 2020-2021 season following the devastating suspension of last season due to the coronavirus.  This caused the big March Madness tournament to be canceled, which upset basketball fans across the globe hoping to see their teams cut down the nets or just looking to fill out a bracket.  Even though there is still an uptick in cases and there are concerns over playing indoor sports, the games are taking place, but there are still a few abnormalities.  Despite the season just beginning, certain teams have already been isolating themselves from others.

Many adjustments had to be made off the court in order for the season to occur because this is the first time a major indoor sport is attempting to play without a bubble since the pandemic began.  There are 32 different conferences that make up the NCAA and, to complicate things, each conference set itsown protocols.  Some teams are requiring players to wear masks at all times during practices and socially distance on the bench during the game, while other teams aren’t so strict about the protocols at practice.   

The majority of teams probably lost a lot of practice time during the pandemic which could affect the intensity of games, but fans are excited nonetheless.  Nevertheless, there will be no  fans in the stands.

Fans are very important to the NCAA.  One reason is that they provide a lot of the money.  Besides the economic part, fans are very important to the players and to the overall environment surrounding college basketball.  The majority of the fans are college students so they have very good connections to the players and love cheering them on.  While NBA fans may need music to get going and be loud, college fans are always engaged and make as much noise as they can which boosts the home team’s confidence  

“College basketball this year will be different because without the fans cheering on their own team and taunting the opponent, the ‘home court advantage’ aspect of the game is gone which is usually a major part of the game,” said sophomore Chase Pastolove.  

 

Even though there have been only a few games played, you can tell that some teams are already establishing themselves as some of the top contenders in the nation.  Gonzaga, the current number one team, has always been a powerhouse and a contender for the National Title.  The second, third, and fourth ranked schools are a bit surprising because usually you would expect schools such as Duke or Virginia to be one of those teams, but this year they aren’t.  Baylor has always been a sleeper team when it comes to March Madness, but this year they aren’t going to come from under and shock anyone as they have a solid ranking of second.  Iowa at three is also very shocking, but with all-around playmaker Luka Garza and the way this year has been going, anything can happen.  

These teams are all undefeated thus far and succeed because they each have players who dominate around the rim and beyond the arc.  With phenomenal defense, they will continue to roll over opponents.  Additionally, the coaches Mark Few of Gonzaga, Scott Drew of Baylor, and Fran McCaffery of Iowa have all done an excellent job teaching and helping their respective teams get better despite  this pandemic.

One might wonder, where are the big named schools like UNC, Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, and Virginia?  hese teams are still within the top 20 with Duke just out of the top 5, but they each have taken a loss so far this early in the season.  UNC, Duke, Kansas, and Kentucky lost to ranked teams, but Virginia took a devastating loss to unranked San Francisco.  

“Virginia played terribly in that game and it could be a result of losing four out of their five starters from the previous year in which they won the National Championship.  San Francisco outplayed them, but I think that Virginia will learn from this, so don’t count them out because they will still be a threat when March comes around,” said sophomore Alec Goodman. 

Gonzaga, Baylor, and Iowa may be holding the top ranks now, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see UNC, Duke, Kansas, Virginia, or Kentucky claim one of these spots as they all have very talented players and highly knowledgeable coaches who help their teams win.  Most analysts always assume that one of these teams is going to win it all in March, but there are other solid teams out there such as Illinois.  

“My early pick to hoist the National Championship is the Illinois Fighting Illini.  Led by potential Wooden Award winner, Ayo Dosunmu, the top-ranked team in Champlain brings a strong team to the court.  Backed by big man Kofi Cockburn and top-50 prospects, Adam Miller and Andre Curbelo, there’s no missing pieces on Brad Underwood’s team.  Currently ranked as number five in the nation, the Fighting Illini will look to take home their first National Championship in the new decade,” said junior Jasper Abrahams.