Opinion: Playing in the NCAA tournaments is going to be hard (unpaid) work this year

Winning an NCAA title will never be harder than it is this year.

This has nothing to do with the Gonzaga juggernaut or the Illinois team that arrives at the NCAA men’s tournament on a tear. What the NCAA, the participating colleges and universities, CBS and, yes, even fans, are asking players in the men’s and women’s tournaments to do these next three-plus weeks is monumental.

So while you’re sitting at home, cursing the $200 prize your busted bracket cost you, remember the sacrifices these teenagers and young 20-somethings are making without making a dime in return.

“Think you can definitely be grateful to play this game while also understanding there’s more that should be on the table. Players ISOLATED entire year to help make this tournament happen. NCAA: rewarded w/ $900 million. Players: rewarded w/ free deodorant and small boxed meals,” Rutgers guard Geo Baker said in a Twitter post Tuesday that has sparked a larger discussion about the exploitation of ”student-athletes.”

As long as their teams are in the tournament, players will have to exist in a semi-bubble to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak from bringing the whole operation to a screeching halt. No meeting up with their parents and significant others who have come to watch them play. No wandering downtown to scope out restaurants and figure out what, exactly, it is they’re hungry for now. No hanging out with players from other teams – siblings included.

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