All five Power Five conferences have canceled their basketball tournaments because of the coronavirus pandemic, putting the NCAA Tournament in doubt.
The Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, ACC and Pac-12 conferences were all preparing to play games in large arenas across the country, but with few people in the buildings.
In Indianapolis, Big Ten officials scrapped the tournament less than 30 minutes before Michigan and Rutgers were scheduled to play in the first game of the day.
The abrupt announcement came shortly after a handful of Michigan players ran onto the floor in a mostly empty Bankers Life Fieldhouse, waving their arms and begging for cheers from the nonexistent crowd. Big Ten officials, like those in many other conferences, announced Thursday they would prohibit most fans, cheerleaders and school bands from attending games beginning Friday.
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The NCAA had announced Wednesday that it planned to play its men’s and women’s tournament games that start next week with restricted access for the general public. The NCAA said only essential staff and limited family members would be allowed to attend the games.
The men’s NCAA Tournament is one of the most popular events on the American sports calendar. March Madness draws hundreds of thousands of fans to arenas from coast to coast.
Following the NCAA’s lead, most college conferences announced that their basketball tournaments would be conducted with limited fan access the rest of the week. By Thursday, after the NBA suspended its season Wednesday night, they decided not to play at all.