This hurts. On so many levels.
In a situation that has escalated incredibly quickly, the NCAA has canceled all remaining winter and spring championships due to fears of the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. The Big Ten has also scrapped all conference and non-conference competitions through the end of the academic year. Recruiting activities have also been suspended indefinitely.
To most fans, this means there will indeed be no March Madness in 2020. And while it is undoubtedly the right call for the sake of public health and safety, it hurts.
The full releases can be read below:
Big Ten cancels all conference and non-conference competitions through the end of the academic year and announces a moratorium on all on- and off-campus recruiting activities for the foreseeable future. https://t.co/bBVXWLqzvg— Big Ten Conference (@bigten) March 12, 2020
On a Northwestern level, it hits hard. Simply put, it sucks.
The women’s basketball team was just four days from likely earning a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament, which would have given it the program’s highest-ever seed. The Wildcats were 26-4 this season and stormed through the Big Ten with a 16-2 record on the way to a share of the 2020 conference championship.
It was a record setting year for Joe McKeown’s team, which had recently begun to gain national attention with its B1G crown and numerous all-conference team awards. Now, they won’t have a chance to compete for a national championship.
Early on Wednesday, fans were allowed to attend both conference tournaments and NCAA Tournament games. Then, as the evening wore on, several conferences and the NCAA announced that contests would be played in empty arenas with only essential personnel and limited family attendance permitted.
The Big Ten as well as several other schools and conferences sent out releases that remaining spring and winter sporting events would operate with only essential personnel and would be open only to immediate family members of players and coaches.
Thursday morning, things took a drastic turn when nearly all conferences canceled their basketball tournaments. The Big East even canceled its tournament at halftime of the St. John’s-Creighton quarterfinal game. Then, schools like Duke and Kansas suspended their athletic programs and conferences followed suit by cancelling any remaining sports through the end of the academic year.
From there, it became evidently clear that the NCAA was next to come down and drop the hammer.
The decision to cancel all competition, especially the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, is gutting. It’s gutting for the seniors who won’t have one last go. It’s gutting for the team that was having a storybook year and was ready to try its hand at March. It’s gutting for everyone involved. And though it is unquestionably the responsible choice to not play these games, it still just sucks.
There are a lot of questions as to how this affects player eligibility, among many other things, including what the near future of this very blog holds. We don’t have the answers right now, but as soon as we know anything, we will keep you posted.