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Rutgers, Iona Preparing For 1st Round Games In Return To March Madness; 'It's A Grind Like No Other'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- You don't have to be a basketball fan to appreciate the return of March Madness.

Even though COVID-19 is still affecting games, at least they're playing this year. For the first time in the tournament's history, all 68 teams are playing in the same regional location: Indiana.

That makes this year's tournament a mixture of March Madness and Hoosier hysteria, CBS2's Steve Overmyer reported Friday.

Don't worry, the buzzer beaters remain, along with thunderous dunks, fantastic finishes and the familiar song "One Shining Moment."

"Coach started playing the song every single day before practice started. Some people got emotional. Some people, you know, it was just like... It's something I've been dreaming of my entire life," said Iona guard Asante Gist.

Iona coach Rick Pitino is a two-time national champion. This year, COVID has cost his program more missed games than any other team in the tournament.

"Don't think it's a major detour. It's not, and the guys handled it with dignity and class and never complained. Even though they were shut down in a small room for 10 days without even any fresh air," Pitino said.

COVID protocols for the tournament keep teams isolated in their hotels with daily testing.

All 68 teams, and all 67 games are held in the basketball hotbed of Indiana. Fans are limited and socially distanced in the arenas.

Rutgers is dancing for the first time in 30 years.

"Being here at March Madness with Rutgers for the first time since 1991, it's a great opportunity, it's a great feeling. But we have a very well understanding that the job is not finished. We still got a lot more to accomplish," said Rutgers guard Ron Harper Jr.

Since teams aren't traveling, the tournament scheduled has been condensed from three weeks to two, meaning the same number of games with shorter rest.

"There's glory here, but it's a grind like no other," said CBS Sports host Adam Zucker.

It's a grind for the players, but weeks of fun for viewers. Nearly 40 million Americans filled out brackets this year.

March Madness is bringing us together and serving as a reminder this tournament is an experience to be shared.

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