NCAA Tournament canceled due to coronavirus

March Madness joined the list of events canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak when the NCAA announced Thursday that all remaining winter and spring championships, including the NCAA Tournament for men’s and women’s basketball, are canceled.

The decision was reached by NCAA president Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors.

“The 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,” the NCAA said in a statement.

The announcement comes as the sports world continues to deal with the growing coronavirus pandemic, with collegiate and professional sports leagues announcing cancellations, postponements and changes of venues.

The NCAA announced Wednesday that it would play the tournament with “only essential staff and limited family” in attendance, but the sporting landscape quickly changed when NBA player Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for coronavirus. That led to the NBA to suspended its season.

Conference postseason tournaments that were still slated to continue — including the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, Pac-12, SEC — were all canceled earlier Thursday.

Individual schools also made decisions, as No. 1 Kansas and No. 10 Duke said they were suspending athletic competition in response to the coronavirus pandemic, a precursor to the eventual NCAA announcement.

“Our highest priority at Kansas Athletics is to ensure the safety and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff,” athletic director Jeff Long said in a statement. “Based on the recommendation of our medical professionals, we have canceled all athletic travel indefinitely. In addition, all home and away athletics events have been suspended indefinitely. We will continue to monitor the situation and determine the next appropriate steps based on advice from our medical team.”

Duke’s president, Vincent E. Price, said “this is clearly an unprecedented moment for our university, our region and the wider world. As we take steps to confront the spread of this virus, I’m grateful for the cooperation and support of the entire Duke community.”

The Athletic Coast Conference, of which Duke is a member, later announced it was suspending all athletic-related activities, including participation in NCAA championships.

“This is unchartered territory and the health and safety of our student-athletes and institutions remains our top priority,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. “This decision is aimed to protect from the further spread of COVID-19.”

Defending national champion Virginia also announced it was suspending all athletic activities.

Kansas coach Bill Self and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski issued statements of support.

“While we are disappointed for the players, it was the right and necessary thing to do,” said Self, who has guided the Jayhawks to 16 straight NCAA Tournaments and won the national title in 2008. “As I said yesterday, this is bigger than a sport or championship. I know our medical staff and the NCAA will research all avenues to determine the appropriate steps moving forward.”

Kansas (28-3) was in line for the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed. Duke (25-6) also would have been a high seed.

“We emphatically support the decision made by Dr. Price today regarding the suspension of athletic competition at Duke,” said Krzyzewski, who has led the Blue Devils to five NCAA championships and 12 Final Four appearances. “The welfare of our student-athletes, and all students at Duke, is paramount, and this decision reflects that institutional priority.”

Florida State, Duke, Louisville, Virginia and North Carolina State were forecasted as ACC teams who would be part of the NCAA Tournament.

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–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)

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