If teams, which will be tested daily, do not have at least five players available, they will be replaced by a team on a waiting list — Louisville is at the top, followed by Colorado State, St. Louis and Mississippi — until 6 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday. After that, teams that cannot play will exit and their opponents will be advanced to the next round. It is not clear whether an infected team will be required to have a coach.
“I can’t imagine an athletic director not having some supervision or coach available in some capacity,” said Dan Gavitt, the N.C.A.A.’s senior vice president for basketball. “But these are extreme times.”
Formulating a field has also been complicated by the pandemic, leaving the selection committee, led by Kentucky’s athletic director, Mitch Barnhart, to assess teams that have been in and out of virus pauses and have had missing players or coaches for certain games. The stunted schedules have thrown bugs into the ratings metrics used to seed teams.
For example, the N.C.A.A.’s NET ranking has Colgate as the ninth best team in the country. The Raiders (14-1) played only five teams this season — all in the Patriot League, whose tournament they won on Sunday. But they were given a computer turbo boost because Army and Navy, the only Patriot teams that played outside the league, had a close loss to Florida and a victory over Georgetown on their résumés. Colgate was given the 14th seed in the South region and matched up against Arkansas in the first round.
Meanwhile, Michigan State, at 15-12 and with three wins in the last three weeks over top 10 teams (Michigan, Illinois and Ohio State), is ranked 70th in the NET, a place normally far past the wrong side of the bubble. The Spartans were seeded 11th in the East region and will face U.C.L.A. in an intriguing play-in game.
The conference tournaments were no more orderly. Not only were there scant top seeds wrapping up automatic berths — just 11 of 31 managed a sweep of the regular season and tournament titles — but the committee struggled with where to place Kansas and Virginia when both teams might be missing key contributors, if they can play at all. (Kansas center David McCormack was ruled out of the Big 12 tournament because of the coronavirus three days before the Jayhawks dropped out because another player tested positive.)
As it turned out, they placed both in the West region, which left the possibility of a very clear path to the Final Four for Gonzaga, which is trying to become the first team since Indiana in 1976 to win a championship with a perfect season. The second seed in the West is Iowa, which Gonzaga — coming off a 17-day pause — cruised past in December.