NCAA tournaments canceled over coronavirus

The NCAA has called off its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments as part of a complete cancellation of all remaining spring and winter championships.

“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,” the NCAA said in a statement Thursday.

The announcement is an abrupt end to a basketball season that had less than a month to go before champions were to be crowned, and the decision has an enormous impact on the South Carolina women’s basketball team, who would have most likely been the frontrunners to win this year’s NCAA Women’s Tournament.

“This is a difficult time with so many conflicting emotions,” said Gamecock women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley. “First and foremost, we have to recognize how important it is to do the right thing for our community. Sports is a big part of our lives, but just one part of how we are connected to each other. We need to step back and think about the larger good served by canceling events that put people at risk.”

The decision follows the cancellation of 15 men’s basketball conference tournaments Thursday and announcements by the ACC, Big Ten and other leagues suspending all athletic-related activity until further notice.

On Wednesday, the NCAA had announced the games that were scheduled to start next week would go on but played in mostly empty arenas. That plan was scrapped as major American sports leagues, including the NBA, NHL and MLB, put the brakes on their seasons due to concerns about the pandemic.

Among the championships that were also canceled are hockey, softball, baseball and lacrosse.

ESPN and the Associated Press contributed to this report

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