Due to the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, the NCAA created a contingency plan in case one or several of the 68 NCAA Tournament teams cannot meet all protocols in Indianapolis before Tuesday.
Should one of the teams named on Selection Sunday become ineligible, there are four teams waiting to fill those spots as NCAA Tournament replacement teams. This year, those four teams are Louisville, Colorado State, Saint Louis and Ole Miss.
Those teams, known as the "first four out," typically make up the four No. 1 seeds on the NIT bracket. While that remains the case this year for three of those teams since Louisville declined an invite to the NIT, all four teams will remain the main alternates. NCAA spokesman David Worlock told USA TODAY Sports no other bubble teams, including the "next four out," would be considered. If a team is ineligible after Tuesday, then it will qualify as a forfeit. If all four teams are used before Tuesday, then the fifth COVID-19-related opening would lead to a forfeit.
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Mississippi Rebels guard Luis Rodriguez (15) reacts against the Kentucky Wildcats at The Pavilion at Ole Miss. (Photo: Justin Ford, USA TODAY Sports)
That trickle-down prompted the NIT, held with only 16 teams in Frisco and Denton, Texas this year instead of Madison Square Garden, to also selecte a first four out – Belmont, Furman, Marshall and UAB as replacements.
Here's a look at the four replacement teams and what they could bring to March Madness:
Louisville (No. 1 alternate, no NIT bid). The Cardinals (13-7) withdrew their name from the NIT but are the first alternate should an NCAA Tournament team be ruled out due to COVID-19. Coach Chris Mack's team wasn't seriously on the bubble until late in the season but playing far less games than a number of teams made the profile hard to read. Carlik Jones (16.8 ppg, 4.5 apg) is a dynamic playmaker who can put the team on his back, evidenced by 25 points in an overtime victory over Duke on Feb. 27.
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Colorado State (No. 2 alternate, No. 1 NIT seed). The Rams (18-6) beat NCAA Tournament teams San Diego State and Utah State in Mountain West play, and were likely one win away from inclusion as a non-replacement team in the NCAAs. David Roddy (16.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg) is the type of player who could become a March star and pairing with Isaiah Stevens (15.1 ppg, 5.3 apg) CSU has a dynamic backcourt.
"This is a dream of all of us. It's hard, man. It's hard," Colorado State coach Niko Medved said of his team being snubbed as an alternate. "You're right there. It's OK to feel that. That's part of being alive. That's part of putting yourself out there."
Saint Louis (No. 3 alternate, No. 1 NIT seed). The Billikens (14-6) were another difficult resume to read for the committee based on COVID-19 stoppages. In 2020-21, Saint Louis beat NCAA Tournament No. 8 seed LSU and No. 9 seed Saint Bonaventure. Both teams play each other in the first round in the East Region. Coach Travis Ford has a group that's one of the best rebounding teams in the country (ranking eighth nationally), led by double-double machine Jordan Goodwin (14.5 ppg, 10.3 rpg).
Ole Miss (No. 4 alternate, No. 1 NIT seed). The Rebels (16-11) were one possession away from beating LSU, the eventual SEC Tournament champion, in the quarterfinals. Before that they had won three in a row and were starting to find their groove. Devontae Shuler (15.3 ppg) guides the offense but coach Kermit Davis' team generates most of its offense from its defense, which ranks 28th nationally in points allowed and 21st in KenPom defensive efficiency.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.
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