The NCAA canceled its basketball tournaments on Thursday due to the spread of coronavirus, which put an abrupt end to the men’s and women’s seasons, less than a month before champions were set to be crowned.
It marked a sad day for college basketball fans everywhere -- despite the fact that the cancellation was made for the right reasons, it’s OK to feel bummed.
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament has been played every year since 1939, ESPN reported.
The unprecedented move comes a day after the NCAA announced that the games would go on, but they’d be played in mostly empty arenas.
That plan was quickly scrapped as every major American sports league from the NBA to MLB put the brakes on its season due to concerns about the pandemic.
“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to the spread of the pandemic and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during the academic year given the ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA said in statement.
It might be a strange March without the tournament. So, what will we miss most? We’ll tell you first, and then you share your answer at the end. Deal?
Who was in? Who was out? Which teams would have gotten those coveted 1-seeds? Which teams would we have been introduced to for the first time? Even just watching the athletes from the smaller schools leap to their feet after learning they’d snagged the 14 seed -- those moments are so joy-filled.
Admittedly, it would have been hard to pick those 1-seeds without the conference tournaments, most of which were also canceled or suspended.
But it looks like the seeding won’t matter after all. This year, you have no bracket to rip up when, inevitably, all your picks fall apart. And who even knows what they’ll spend hours upon hours talking about and re-hashing on ESPN.
Cutting down the nets
Have you ever watched your team cut down the nets to advance to a Final Four?
Of course, a Final Four is not a championship, and from there, much hard work still lies ahead.
But there’s just something about that day that’s so special. It’s a big benchmark to get that far in the tournament and be the team that comes out of its region -- it’s like, for just a minute, everything just relaxes. The tension of an otherwise-stressful tournament melts away when you finally confirm that you’re in the four.
Even the gruffest of coaches climb that ladder and flash a winning smile.
And of course, one team gets to do it all over again if it wins the whole thing.
The seniors saying their goodbyes
The sad part about the tournament is, unlike with college football and the bowl game system (you get a win and you get a win and you get a win! A bunch of us are ending the season on a W!), when it comes to the Big Dance, only one squad gets to walk away the champion.
That’s not to say the title game is the only one that matters -- but still, there is something emotional about watching your favorite seniors walk off the court, win or lose, knowing that they gave it their all. That was the final time they’d wear the jersey, represent the school and score points for your college or alma mater. You hear about the one-and-done kids, but a good number of athletes stick around, as well.
The ‘Madness’ of March Madness
Which was going to be the team that barely made the tournament, and then went on to upset a No. 3 seed?
We’ll never know.
We’re not sure if something’s in the water, or if it’s the format of the tournament, or what -- but some of those games are just pure magic. There’s an electricity in the air. You just never know what might happen.
And similarly ... that one upset for the ages ...
What would have happened in 2020?
(Who remembers this moment, below? History!)
No 2020 tournament means no 2020 Cinderella.
‘One Shining Moment’
You know “One Shining Moment!”
Here, we’ll include last year’s, so you can see what we’ll be missing. 😢
All the little things that make the tourney what it is
The fans! The cheerleaders! The bands! The locker room celebrations!
As we mentioned up top, before Thursday’s announcement, the tournament was set to be played without any fans at all -- so it was already going to be a shell of the event it once was.
But now that it has been canceled entirely, we can’t help but take a minute to think of the seniors, the athletes who stuck around an extra year and anyone else tied to the programs.
Of course, other leagues were halted and effected as well, but this feels different.
For what it’s worth, the NCAA canceled all of its spring championships in every sport, which include hockey, baseball and lacrosse.
And as much as the decision seems sad, if it’s what will keep people healthiest, then so be it.
OK, now let us know:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.