Big Ten Cancels Men's Basketball Tournament Due To Coronavirus Concerns

By Colin Hass-Hill on March 12, 2020 at 11:45 am
Big Ten
Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Two games, one day, and it's over.

The Big Ten announced on Thursday it has canceled the postseason men's basketball tournament due to concerns about the coronavirus.

"The Big Ten Conference will use this time to work with the appropriate medical experts and institutional leadership to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic," the Big Ten said in a statement. "The main priority of the Big Ten Conference continues to be the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, fans and media as we continue to monitor all developing and relevant information on the COVID-19 virus."

In succession, the SEC, Big 12, AAC and MAC tournaments were canceled around noon on Thursday, as well.

Originally on Wednesday afternoon, the conference made public its plans to continue with the tournament without any notable changes. A few hours later, it made the decision to remove fans and limit spectators to student-athletes, coaches, event staff, essential team, conference staff, television network partners, credentialed media and immediate family members of players, beginning with the second-round games on Thursday.

Two first-round games – Nebraska-Indiana and Northwestern-Minnesota – were played on Wednesday evening to open the tournament in Indianapolis with fans watching inside of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and they will be the only games to happen in this year's conference tournament.

Michigan and Rutgers were warming up to play a second-round game scheduled to tip off at noon. Around 20 minutes beforehand, though, the teams were removed from the court. Subsequently came an announcement of the conference tournament's cancelation.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith took to Twitter to express gratitude for first-year Big Ten commissioner's decision to cancel the tournament.

Ohio State had earned the No. 7 seed in the Big Ten tournament and was slated to take on 10th-seeded Purdue at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Now, Chris Holtmann's team must look ahead to March Madness – if that tournament even happens.

The NCAA has not yet commented on whether or not its postseason men's basketball tournament will take place. On Wednesday afternoon, NCAA president Mark Emmert announced fans would be barred from attending tournament games, limiting those in the building to players and coaches, along with "essential staff and limited family attendance."

“I don't know where this is headed,” Holtmann said on Wednesday afternoon before the tumult of news broke. “I think we all know this is a fluid situation. So I'm not sure where it's all headed. I do think there'll continue to be some things that will really impact the NCAA tournament.”

Concerns about COVID-19 have led to a host of recent cancellations in the world of sports.

The NBA abruptly postponed its season on Wednesday night after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus. On Wednesday afternoon, Ohio governor Mike DeWine said an order banning mass gatherings – which affects NCAA tournament games in Cleveland and Dayton, high school athletics and more – would come in the next 24-36 hours. 

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