No plans to shift 2021 NCAA tournament, says basketball chief Dan Gavitt

Dan Gavitt, the NCAA's senior vice president of basketball, said Thursday the organization doesn't have any plans to move the NCAA men's tournament in 2021.

While the coronavirus is already impacting fall sports throughout the country, Gavitt told ESPN it's "premature to consider dramatic alternatives" for college basketball's multibillion-dollar conclusion.

"Right now, we're still planning on conducting a tournament as scheduled in March and April," said Gavitt, who conducted a virtual meeting with the tournament selection committee this week. "That's definitely our preference."

College basketball officials and leaders continue to rely on the gift of time as they assess the next steps for the 2020-21 season while college football's power brokers consider various changes amid the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, the Ivy League announced the suspension of its fall sports slate, leaving the door open for a return sometime next year. On Thursday, the Big Ten said it will play only conference games in the fall, a decision that will affect the entire college sports landscape.

Gavitt said NCAA officials continue to track developments and make adjustments as necessary. Earlier this week, he told Sports Illustrated that he'd proposed a late-October start -- two weeks earlier than normal -- for college basketball to Division I officials. Gavitt said, however, he pitched that proposal in early June and it has failed to gain support over the past month.

He said the NCAA's plan to host a tournament in March and April will come with a variety of contingencies. He said the NCAA will allow conferences to apply for waivers "into February" if they decide to give their league's automatic qualifier to the top team in their standings instead of hosting a conference tournament.

"We are going to be very flexible," he said.

Gavitt also said the NET (NCAA evaluation tool) ranking system, which has replaced the RPI as a central metric for the NCAA tournament selection committee, might not carry the same weight if conferences don't play balanced and equitable schedules. He said NCAA officials have contacted Google, which helped develop the NET, about the potential impact of a chaotic season.

"If it does happen, we would have to use different tools and maybe even use more observation," he said.

The bottom line is that college basketball doesn't have to make the decisions college football's leaders must finalize in the coming days and weeks. That's a potential benefit, and for college basketball's leaders, it's also more time to weigh the unknown.

"We'll learn a lot from what's going on right now in Orlando with Major League Soccer and the NBA and Major League Baseball, and we'll adapt from their experience," Gavitt said. "As long as basketball is played safely in 2021, we will have a regular season, we will have a tournament. I'm confident in that."