The NCAA is canceling the NCAA Tournaments for men’s and women’s basketball, adding March Madness to the growing list of world sporting events affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
“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 statement Thursday afternoon. “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.”
Thursday’s move followed nearly every other American professional sports league announcing changes or postponements to their seasons, as well as individual college sports conferences scrapping their conference basketball tournaments in response to the coronavirus.
Although the NCAA’s cancellation will also affect sports such as track and field, baseball, softball and hockey, no other winter or spring sports match the interest of March Madness. The NCAA Tournament generates more than $900 million for the association and its hundreds of member schools and is one of the biggest events on the American sports calendar.
The cancellation meant an abrupt end to the season for several Oregon teams that had been gearing up to continue playing in the postseason, from the Oregon Ducks men’s and women’s teams, to the Oregon State Beavers and Portland Pilots women.
Portland had been set to host the NCAA women’s tournament’s West Regional at the Moda Center on March 28 and 30. The NCAA said ticket-holders would be refunded.
Led by dynamic star Sabrina Ionescu, along with Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally, the Oregon women’s team won both the Pac-12 regular-season title and the Pac-12 tournament championship and was projected as a No. 1 seed in the tournament and likely was to be placed in the Portland Regional.
Oregon State’s women’s team also was projected to host first- and second-round games in Corvallis. And the Portland Pilots women had just earned an automatic bid to the tournament by winning the WCC tournament on Tuesday.
The Oregon men’s team, led by Pac-12 player of the year Payton Pritchard, won the Pac-12 regular-season title and was projected as a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Ducks were the top seed at the Pac-12 tournament before the event was canceled Thursday morning, and Oregon subsequently was awarded the Pac-12′s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Not long after that, March Madness was canceled.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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