Turns out the top four teams left out of March Madness won’t have their bubbles burst quite yet.

Under a contingency plan released Thursday by the Division I basketball committees, those four at-large teams that don’t make the original field in the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments will be placed in order and serve as replacement teams should any conference with multiple bids have a school that is unable to participate because of COVID-19 issues.

If the tournament begins without any withdrawals, the four would still be eligible to compete in the NIT.

The contingency plan only applies to the short period between the announcement of the brackets – March 14 for men and March 15 for women – and the start of games later that week. Once a tournament begins, any team whose opponent is forced to withdraw would automatically advance to the next round.

If there are COVID-19 issues with a qualifying school leading up to the NCAA Tournament selection, conferences get to designate a replacement team and it will be seeded in the bracket based upon its own body of work.

Single-bid conferences likewise can choose their replacement, provided the team has gone seven days without a positive test.

Due to the pandemic, the entire men’s tournament will take place in Indianapolis and the surrounding area, beginning with First Four games March 18 at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette and Assembly Hall in Bloomington. The Final Four will take place at Lucas Oil Stadium, with the championship game scheduled for April 5.

The women’s tournament, which begins with first-round games March 21, will take place in San Antonio and neighboring cities of Austin and San Marcos. The Final Four is set for the Alamodome, with the title game April 4.

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Referee Angie Enlund lies on the court after being inadvertently knocked down by Rutgers’ Tekia Mack near the end of an game between Rutgers and Michigan State on Wednesday in East Lansing, Mich. Nick King/Lansing State Journal via AP

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

OFFICIAL INJURED: Official Angie Enlund was hurt at the end of the Rutgers-Michigan State women’s basketball game Wednesday and taken to a hospital.

After the final buzzer, Rutgers player Tekia Mack was heading back to the Scarlet Knights bench when she inadvertently ran over Enlund at center court, hitting her hard.

Enlund was on the ground for a few minutes and taken off on a stretcher. She did have mobility and movement of her extremities and went to a hospital to be further evaluated.

A Michigan State spokeswoman said Enlund would be kept overnight at the hospital with a concussion but that she had no fractures. No futher update was available.

“I know she was unconscious for a period of time,” Michigan State Coach Suzy Merchant said. “They took her in an ambulance, but it’s a very scary and serious thing. She hit very, very hard. She hit her head really hard, so I would just pray for her and her family and hope that she is going to be OK.”

Rutgers players huddled in front of their bench holding hands in a circle praying for Enlund. The 25th-ranked Scarlet Knights won, 63-53.

(1) UCONN 81, CREIGHTON 49: Nika Muhl scored 15 of her season-high 19 points in the first quarter and the Huskies (19-1, 16-0 Big East) clinched the Big East regular-season championship with a victory over the Bluejays (7-10, 6-7) in Omaha, Nebraska.

(2) NORTH CAROLINA STATE 83, PITTSBURGH 53: Raina Perez scored 14 points and the Wolfpack (16-2, 11-2 Atlantic Coast) routed the Panthers (5-12, 3-11) at Raleigh, North Carolina.

(3) TEXAS A&M 73, ALABAMA 67: Jordan Nixon and Kayla Wells each scored 16 points and the Aggies (21-1, 12-1 Southeastern Conference) beat the Crimson Tide (15-7, 8-7) in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

(5) SOUTH CAROLINA 68, MISSISSIPPI 43: Zia Cooke scored 17 points, and the Gamecocks (19-3, 14-1 Southeastern Conference) held the visiting Rebels (9-10, 3-10) to their worst shooting performance of the season – 26.2% (16 of 61).

(8) MARYLAND 88, PURDUE 59: Angel Reese scored 17 points for the Terrapins (18-2, 14-1 Big Ten) in a win over the Boilermakers (6-14, 3-13) at West Lafayette, Indiana.

(19) KENTUCKY 62, (17) GEORGIA 58: Rhyne Howard scored 27 points, hitting all four of her 3-pointers, and the Wildcats (16-6, 9-5 Southeastern Conference) defeated the Bulldogs (17-5, 9-5) in Athens, Georgia.

MEN’S BASKETBALL

(1) GONZAGA 89, SANTA CLARA 75: Corey Kispert scored 25 points, Drew Timme had 16 of his 18 points in the second half, and the Bulldogs (23-0, 14-0 West Coast Conference) defeated the Broncos (10-7, 4-5) for their 50th straight win at home.

(3) MICHIGAN 79, (9) IOWA 57: Hunter Dickinson gave Luka Garza fits around the basket, and Franz Wagner scored 21 points to lead the Wolverines (17-1, 12-1) past the visiting Hawkeyes (17-7, 11-6).

Garza led Iowa with 16 points, but he shot 6 of 19 from the field.

(5) ILLINOIS 86, NEBRASKA 70: Kofi Cockburn scored 24 points, freshman Adam Miller added 18 and the Illini (17-6, 13-4 Big Ten) beat the Cornhuskers (5-17, 1-14) in Champaign, Illinois.

(12) HOUSTON 81, WESTERN KENTUCKY 57: Quentin Grimes scored a career-high 33 points to help the Cougars (19-3) beat the Hilltoppers (15-5) in Houston.

SOUTH CAROLINA: South Carolina was placed on probation for two years by the NCAA because former assistant coach Lamont Evans accepted $9,100 in bribes from a sports agent.

The NCAA’s decision put an end to South Carolina’s role in the college basketball corruption case that began in 2017. The Gamecocks largely avoided more serious penalties like a postseason ban for what the NCAA deemed a Level I infractions case. South Carolina Coach Frank Martin was not named in any NCAA allegations.

“We move forward and I am thankful to have this situation behind us,” Martin said in a statement.

Evans worked at South Carolina for four seasons before leaving for Oklahoma State following the 2015-16 season. He pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy for taking some $22,000 to steer basketball prospects to the school in Columbia.

MARQUETTE will allow up to 1,800 to attend its regular-season finale March 6 against Xavier.

This will be the first time this season that Marquette has played a home game in front of that many spectators. The Golden Eagles had no spectators for most of their home games. They allowed family members of players to attend a 71-68 loss to Creighton on Feb. 6.

Those 1,800 fans represent about 10% of the capacity at Fiserv Forum, which also serves as the home arena for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks just started allowing fans to fill 10% of the arena’s seating capacity to home contests on Sunday after experimenting with smaller crowds earlier in their current eight-game home stretch.

Most of the tickets will be offered to students. Athletic officials also will be communicating with other groups in their ticket distribution plan, including family members of players and staffers, athletic department personnel and donors. Seating will be arranged to ensure social distancing. Fans must wear masks and can’t bring bags into the arena.


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