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Expect the unexpected as most unpredictable NCAA Tournament opens against backdrop of pandemic

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There will be 68 teams and then 64, then 32, 16, eight, four, two and, by the end of the first Monday in April, one national champion.

There will be upsets, buzzer-beaters and Cinderellas, and when it’s all said and done the music will play: memorable moments will roll to the tune of “One Shining Moment,” the ubiquitous anthem of March Madness.

And that’s pretty much where the similarities will end.

There is no blueprint and no roadmap for conducting an NCAA Tournament amid the protocols and measures that have defined everyday life since last March, when the cancellation of the men’s and women’s tournaments forced college athletics to come to grips with the new normal created by the coronavirus pandemic.

While several major sporting events have been conducted in the shadow of COVID-19, the tournament represents a uniquely daunting challenge: three weekends of games involving dozens of teams featuring hundreds of players and coaches held at multiple venues in the NCAA’s backyard.



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