NCAA College Basketball

Coronavirus update: NCAA Tournament ready to close March Madness games to fans?


The NCAA Tournament begins in one week with the First Four games at University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio.

We don’t yet know the teams which will be on the court.

But it sounds like the teams could be playing in an empty building because of the coronavirus outbreak.

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Fox 8 News in Cleveland reports “Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has recommended there be NO spectators allowed for indoor sports activities, including high school, college and professional teams.”

Upon hearing that, college basketball insiders were quick to note the significance of a potential ban in Ohio.

The Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland is scheduled to host NCAA Tournament first- and second-round games next week.

Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, home to the NBA’s Cavaliers, also hosts the MAC Tournament beginning Thursday.

Tuesday evening, the MAC released a statement saying the basketball tournament “will be closed to the public.”

Last week, Johns Hopkins hosted NCAA Division III men’s basketball first-and second-round games and closed its doors to fans out of concern for the coronavirus.

Monday, MLB, NHL, NBA and MLS jointly announced the leagues are closing clubhouse and locker room access to the media to limit exposure to players (although that might be too late for New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez).

Tuesday, the Ivy League announced it is canceling its season-ending basketball tournaments out of an abundance of caution.

Also on Tuesday, the New Jersey Devils announced they will continue to play their games in front of fans at the Prudential Center in Newark, but provided guidelines for those planning to attend.

Tuesday marked the detection of the first case of the coronavirus in Philadelphia. So the city’s health department is urging people to stay away from “public gatherings with more than 5,000 expected attendees.” This includes Sixers and Flyers games at the Wells Fargo Center.

As of right now, the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York City and the Big Ten Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. are proceeding as originally scheduled without any modifications for fans or media. Both tournaments begin on Wednesday.

When asked Tuesday by NJ Advance Media for an update on Rutgers’ participation in the Big Ten Tournament, the athletic department deferred to the statement made Saturday by league officials:

The Big Ten Conference’s main priority is to ensure the safety of our students, coaches, administrators, event staff and fans as we continue to monitor all relevant information on the COVID-19 virus and its impact on hosting events in public spaces.

At this time all Conference championships/tournaments will continue to be held as scheduled, and we will continue to consult with local and state public health departments, host facilities and the NCAA leading up to and during these events to implement best practices and provide the most current information.

Mike Rosenstein may be reached at mrosenstein@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @rosenstein73. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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