Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

March Sadness: NCAA Cancels Basketball Tournaments, All Winter, Spring Championships

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

March Sadness: NCAA Cancels Basketball Tournaments, All Winter, Spring Championships

Article excerpt

There will be no March Madness in 2020. Not in St. Louis next week. Not at the Final Four next month. The college basketball season, for the men and the women, ended Thursday when the NCAA canceled its championship events for basketball and other winter and spring sports because of coronavirus.

That means college baseball teams won't head to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series in June. The same goes for college softball. The outdoor track and field season is over before it ever started. College sports are essentially done until the fall, at the earliest.

"Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division I men's and women's 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships," the NCAA said in a press release. "This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities."

St. Louis was set to host first- and second-round games of the men's basketball NCAA Tournament next Thursday and Saturday at Enterprise Center. On Wednesday, the NCAA announced plans to restrict fans from attending its championship events but still hoped to stage the games at the various host cities. Atlanta was set to host the men's Final Four, while the women's Final Four was headed to New Orleans.

Instead, those arenas will be empty altogether as the college sports world goes into hibernation.

The Big Ten Conference was the first to announce Thursday that it was canceling conference and nonconference competitions through the end of the academic year. As of Thursday night, other conferences hadn't confirmed that their spring seasons were canceled, but the Southeastern Conference had already decided to shut down all sporting events and suspend on- and off-campus recruiting through March 30. Beyond that, the situation is murky.

By the time the NCAA made its sweeping announcement shortly after 3 p.m. St. Louis time, major college conferences were still processing the cancellation of their men's basketball tournaments while clinging to hope the national tournaments would still be played.

The NBA's decision to suspend its season after a player tested positive for coronavirus became a tipping point for the SEC tournament in Nashville, Tenn. That's how SEC commissioner Greg Sankey described his decision Thursday during a somber news conference at Bridgestone Arena. Just down the hallway, Alabama and Tennessee were supposed to be playing in the second round of the tournament, but instead, 90 minutes before tip-off Sankey was on a conference call that led to the tournament's cancellation.

"It was a moment where I had to stop and actually catch myself and recompose myself," Sankey said.

Sankey's peers leading the other conferences around the country made the same decision. The Atlantic 10 canceled its tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y., where St. Louis University was set to play in Friday's quarterfinals. Illinois was in Indianapolis for the Big Ten tournament, hoping to bolster its NCAA Tournament credentials.

The Atlantic 10's announcement came minutes before VCU and Massachusetts were to tip-off at Barclays Center while the Billikens worked out at New York University. …

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