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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Navigating The NCAA Bubble

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As you know, the entire NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament will be played in Indiana this year. The games begin on Thursday afternoon. But this year’s tournament will be in a bubble-like atmosphere that is officially being referred to as a “controlled environment.”

Teams will be sequestered in downtown hotels and the only walking they will do is via skywalks. While all of the First Four games and a few First Rounds games will be held at Assembly Hall and Mackey Arena, 55 of the tournament’s 67 overall games will take place in Indianapolis venues. Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and Lucas Oil Stadium are the main locations for this tournament.

For the Grand Canyon Antelopes, this controlled environment will be their first-ever appearance in the Division I NCAA Tournament. GCU became a Division I school in the 2013-14 season and had a four-year transition period that made them ineligible for the tournament until the 2017-18 season.

“There’s not much hype,” said Ed Schilling, an assistant coach for the Antelopes. “In fact, [the team] is kind of more isolated now than we’ve been all year.”

This is Schilling’s first season at Grand Canyon, as he is serving under head coach and former Valparaiso star Bryce Drew. The Antelopes are the No. 15 seed in the West Region and will face No. 2 seed Iowa on Saturday at 6:25 p.m. in Indiana Farmers Coliseum.

Schilling made the tournament twice as a point guard at Miami (OH), as his Redhawks narrowly missed overtime upsets in 1985 and 1986. He is disappointed that his players didn’t get to properly celebrate their postseason berth, saying, “They didn’t get a chance to be on-campus for the selection show, or have the sendoff with the band and the fans as you leave campus to go to the airport.”

Grand Canyon won the WAC Championship on Saturday night, defeating New Mexico State 74-56. By Sunday afternoon, the team had traveled from Las Vegas to Indianapolis without returning to their home campus in Phoenix.

So far, Schilling has been impressed with the controlled environment for the 68 tournament teams. “There’s almost no way to get COVID because you’re not going out and people aren’t coming in.”

Schilling is quite familiar with the Hoosier state. He has been the head coach at Western Boone, Logansport, and Park Tudor, where the Panthers made three straight state championship games and won state titles in 2011 and 2012. From 2017 to 2019, Schilling was an assistant at IU.

When he’s not at Grand Canyon, Schilling resides in Lebanon. “If you’re going to be stuck in any city, it’s sure nice to look out my window and look at my stomping grounds where I grew up and where I coached.”

Schilling and the Antelopes are just grateful for their chance to compete against the 21-8 Hawkeyes. “Given the pandemic, we’re just fortunate we’re having March Madness and even more so that we’re getting to be a part of it.”

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