The NCAA made the extraordinary decision on Wednesday to move forward with its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments without fans in attendance in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The three-week tournament that embodies fan passion will now be played in empty arenas. The first- and second-round games planned for next week will be played at their originally scheduled venues.
But with fans not playing a factor, the NCAA is considering moving the men’s Final Four from the cavernous Mercedes-Benz Stadium to a smaller venue in Atlanta. The second weekend’s regional sites in Houston, Los Angeles, Indianapolis and New York could also be moved.
It amounts to stunning news in the basketball world and beyond as America comes to grips that life will change in large scale until the spread of the coronavirus is contained.
The basketball community reacted in kind on Wednesday, from players to fans to media members:
The NCAA Tournament without fans is going to be insane— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) March 11, 2020
games about to feel like closed scrimmages— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) March 11, 2020
Even though it seemed inevitable for about the last 48 hours ... wow. Just wow, the magnitude of this.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) March 11, 2020
This really sucks but was inevitable. Still don’t think we’re out of the woods yet on the tournament not being cancelled altogether. Like @DanWetzel and others have pointed out, “forcing” unpaid guys to travel/play might be a liability risk the NCAA ultimately wants no part of. https://t.co/MSQLjRvJUw— Mark Titus (@clubtrillion) March 11, 2020
Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann to me on the NCAA’s recent decision not to allow fans to NCAA tourney games: pic.twitter.com/qFdgl4z7VA— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) March 11, 2020
Teams worked all season for seeding in the NCAA Tournament to have certain advantages in specific geographic areas.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 11, 2020
That will now have significantly less of an impact with no fans in the stands.
This is ****** March.
NCAA Tournament with no fans? I guess the NCAA will see what it’s like to be a college player and ball out on a big stage and not get paid for it. #CashUniversity— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) March 11, 2020
This is crazy! Wild times for sporting events ... https://t.co/esAy6BBFnT— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) March 11, 2020
After reacting to the initial shock of the news, some looked ahead to how empty stands will impact the games and the broadcasts. Some even found the bright side of a dark situation.
Everyone will claim NCAA Tournament games will favor chalk ... or dogs ... or overs ... or unders.— Brad Evans (@NoisyHuevos) March 11, 2020
Bottom line, we have zero clue how teams will react to unattended "ghost" games. Zero.
Only fair comp: Sparsely attended holiday tournaments.
Let's set some betting lines for the first NCAA coach to get T'd up for muttering something about the ref's mother that echoes in a silent arena— Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) March 11, 2020
Oh man, they are going to have to broadcast it on a delay based on what you're going to hear come out of coaches' mouths. https://t.co/aXqs0MTaXa— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) March 11, 2020
No fans is a bummer. The only upside is that with a quiet arena the microphones will pick up EVERY single bit of trash talk.— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) March 11, 2020
This year’s NCAA tournament will be dramatically different than any we’ve seen before. We have a week to get used to it.
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