Travel logistics can be tricky amid March Madness whirlwind
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Holy Cross found out Sunday it would face second-seeded Maryland in the women’s NCAA Tournament.
Then the more immediate challenge began — figuring out how to travel there.
The Crusaders eventually arrived following a lengthy bus ride Wednesday, one of a handful of teams to face logistical challenges during March Madness this week. Charleston’s men’s team arranged for a chartered flight to its game because the trip was too short for an NCAA-funded one. Grand Canyon arrived for its men’s game in Denver, but luggage was delayed.
The San Diego State men had their charter delayed for a more prestigious reason.
“Restricted airspace around Air Force One,” coach Brian Dutcher said.
Charleston played San Diego State in Orlando, Florida, on Thursday. The South Carolina school is about 380 miles from Orlando, just below the 400-mile threshold at which the NCAA would pay for a chartered flight. So Charleston paid for its own flight — and the Cougars had a little more incentive to win.
The plan was to return by bus if they lost in the first round. If they advanced to Saturday, there would be time to arrange a chartered flight home. Charleston lost to San Diego State 63-57.
Holy Cross is located in Worcester, Massachusetts, about 390 miles from College Park. The threshold for a chartered flight used to be 350 miles, but the NCAA changed its policy for both men’s and women’s basketball this year to match up with other Division I sports. Schools have the option to charter flights if they wish at the school’s expense. The threshold remains 350 miles for the regionals and Final Four.
For Holy Cross, there was also the matter of a nor’easter that affected New England this week.
“The travel piece was a huge question mark, obviously finding out that we couldn’t charter by a couple miles,” Crusaders coach Maureen Magarity said. “Figuring out the buses, the impending snowstorm, there’s a lot of moving parts. I’m just so grateful to our staff and our administration to help figure all that out for us.”
For Holy Cross, a Patriot League school, taking the bus isn’t all that unusual.
“It was a lot of fun on the bus,” guard Addisyn Cross said. “We played some games, so we made it a fun experience.”
The Lopes of Grand Canyon found themselves in a bind Wednesday when they arrived in Denver but their gear didn’t make it. So they borrowed equipment from Regis University in Denver and used scout jerseys provided by Baylor.
Baylor coach Scott Drew was all too willing to assist his little brother, Bryce, the coach of Grand Canyon. The brothers’ teams just so happen to be playing at the same site, but in different regionals.
“We charge them by the hour,” Scott Drew cracked. “Whatever we can do to help.”
Just a minor hiccup, Bryce Drew explained, as the Lopes get set to play third-seeded Gonzaga on Friday.
“We’re all ready to go and shoes and jerseys and practice gear is all delivered,” he said.
For San Diego State, the delay was brief, and Dutcher didn’t seem like he was about to lodge a major complaint with the White House.
“Charters, as much as they sound like they’re going to get you here early, they usually get you here when they get you here,” he said. “We left San Diego at 5:00, landed at 12:00 or 12:30. Like I said, I wasn’t joking, I was eating chicken wings at 2:00 a.m. They were good. They tasted really good, and we were happy to have them, and we’re happy to be here.”
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
AP March Madness coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg and AP Sports Writers Pat Graham and Mark Long contributed to this report.
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