BOSTON (CBS) — March Madness is upon us, with an extremely unique NCAA Tournament now underway. It’s something hoop heads around the country have been looking forward to ever since last year’s tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

WBZ-TV and CBSN are welcoming new Boston College head coach Earl Grant as a guest analyst to break down the bracket action throughout this year’s tournament, and he tipped things off on Friday by discussing the unique atmosphere that players will be dealing with this year. Everything is taking place in Indiana, with all of the teams living a “bubble life” amid the pandemic.

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It has created a new and unusual situation for players and coaches alike, but nothing about this season has been normal. And it will all be worth it for one team, with their three-week stay in Indiana ending in a title.

“It’s going to be tough and stressful, because every time you take a COVID test — typically you’re getting a test every day — you’re probably cringing a little bit,” said Grant, who was named the new coach at Boston College earlier this month. “I think it’s going to be stressful and there are going to be some teams that will have to opt out.”

But that will create new opportunities for surprise Cinderella stories to emerge, which is one of the best parts of this time of the year.

“There may be a team that we’re not talking about that, because they stay healthy, they find a rhythm,” said Grant. “And they may be a very wild card Final Four team because of that.”

Grant said that not having big crowds at the games shouldn’t dampen the experience too much, since it’s something teams have dealt with all season. It will also bring back a feeling of purity to the games for both the players and the fans.

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“It’s March and if you’re playing in March, these guys know it’s the tournament. We played all season without fans. The energy, passion and the purity of the game came out,” he said. “When you’re growing up playing, there is no crowd. The purity of it will show, and these guys definitely know this is March Madness.

“I think they’re extremely hungry,” Grant added. “When you make it this far after that kind of year with the testing and the shutdowns, you really want to win a championship right now. Even some of the lower teams, I think these teams will be extremely hungry. When you’re at the tournament, it’s a different feeling and a different excitement.”

Grant likes either Gonzaga or Baylor to cut down the nets on April 5, but he anticipates plenty of underdogs to prevail along the way,

“We never get it right,” he said of filling out a bracket. “There will be some upsets and a lot of underdogs finding ways to win games.”

As for when Boston College will be back to dancing in March, Grant is confident it will happen sooner rather than later. He ended a 20-year tournament drought during his run at the College of Charleston, and now he’s looking to end an 11-year drought at The Heights.

“Right now, our job is to move this program forward and make some progress,” he said of his first-year goal with the Eagles. “My answer would be let us move it forward this year, find some guys who really want to win at Boston College, whether guys in the locker room now or guys we have to bring in, so we can play with some competitive spirit and some grit. Show some excitement to the students.

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“Make progress now and I believe we’ll be there,” he said.

CBSBoston.com Staff