NCAA cancels ‘March Madness’ basketball tournament due to coronavirus precautions


(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

INDIANAPOLIS — The National Collegiate Athletic Association canceled its popular college basketball tournament on Thursday, following a slew of conferences that canceled individual tournaments earlier in the day.

The NCAA said in light of developments with the spread of the novel coronavirus, it needed to cancel to prevent the spread of the pandemic.

The NCAA will also cancel the women’s basketball tournament and all other winter and spring championships.

This comes after every Power 5 conference canceled respective tournaments, and the University of Kansas and Duke University announced that they were indefinitely suspending all athletic travel, effectively ruling themselves out if there was an NCAA Tournament next week.

With so many conferences canceling their tournaments, the NCAA said it was impractical to host its tournament any time during the academic year.

The Big 12 announced shortly before the tip off of its games Thursday that the tournament was off.

Texas and Texas Tech were going through pregame warmups and the handful of close family and friends were already in the stands when the teams were pulled off the court 40 minutes before tip-off.

“I think this is emblematic of how our country will be responding to a very unusual set of circumstances,” Bowlsby said. “I feel good that we made the right decision for the right reasons.”

Following the NCAA’s lead Wednesday, most college conferences announced that their basketball tournaments would be conducted with limited fan access the rest of the week. By Thursday, after the NBA suspended its season Wednesday night, they decided not to play at all.

Some took a little longer than others to pull the plug. The Big East started its second-round game between top-seeded Creighton and St. John’s at Madison Square Garden in New York and not until halftime was the tournament called off.

As the Bluejays and Red Storm were playing, a few subway stops away at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the Atlantic-10 was holding a news conference to call off its tournament.

Among the other conferences that canceled tournaments were: the American Athletic Conference in Fort Worth, Texas; Conference USA in Frisco, Texas; the Sun Belt in New Orleans; the Western Athletic Conference in Anaheim, California; the Big Sky in Boise; the Southwestern Athletic Conference in Birmingham; and the Mid-American Conference in Cleveland at an arena that is home to the NBA’s Cavaliers and is scheduled to be the site of NCAA men’s tournament games next week.

The semifinals and finals of the Sun Belt men’s and women’s tournaments were set to be played Saturday at the Smoothie King Center, where the NBA’s Pelicans play and the site of this year’s women’s Final Four.

The SEC also announced the suspension of regular-season competition for teams in all sports on campuses as well as SEC championship events until March 30.

Rick Fulkerson of Rockport, Indiana, the uncle of Tennessee junior forward John Fulkerson, planned to attend the SEC Tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

“It’s different and serious,” Rick Fulkerson said. “It’s common sense, probably.”

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the virus.

The Big Ten was playing in Indianapolis; the SEC in Nashville, Tennessee; the Big 12 in Kansas City, Missouri; the Pac-12 in Las Vegas; and the ACC in Greensboro, North Carolina, at another arena set to host NCAA men’s first- and second-round games next week.

At the ACC, Florida State and Clemson were on the floor warming up for the first game of a scheduled quadrupleheader when the announcement came down that no games would be played.

Top seed Florida State was then awarded the league’s championship trophy in an odd ceremony with Commissioner John Swofford in a mostly empty arena.

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