Major college basketball conference tournaments, some spring sports canceled due to coronavirus

College basketball tournaments across the country were canceled on Thursday due to the health risks associated with the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Cancellations came from the AAC, ACC, Atlantic 10, Big Ten, Big 12, Big West, Conference USA, MAC, Pac-12, SEC, Sun Belt and WAC have all canceled their men’s basketball tournaments due to the coronavirus outbreak. Additionally, the America East canceled its conference title game, scheduled for Saturday.

The leagues announced their decisions Thursday morning just before games in many of the tournaments were set to tip off. Many tournaments had already begun, with early round games being played earlier in the week. For other conferences, Thursday marked the beginning of their respective tournaments.

For the AAC, its tournament was scheduled to begin in Fort Worth, Texas, on Thursday.

"There was no way we could defend playing this. We wanted to be proactive in protecting our student athletes,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco told Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel.

The Ivy League was the first conference to cancel both its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, making the decision on Tuesday.

The winners of these conference tournaments would have earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, which, for now, is set to take place next week without fans in the stands.

But with the NBA and other professional leagues opting to indefinitely suspend their seasons, the NCAA faces a difficult decision about the fate of its most popular event.

Fans enter The Bankers Life Fieldhouse for a game at the Big Ten Conference tournament in Indianapolis, Thursday, March 12, 2020. The Big Ten announced that games will be limited to student-athletes, coaches, event staff, essential team and Conference staff, TV network partners, credentialed media, and immediate family members of the participating teams due to concerns over the coronavirus.  (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
The Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis was canceled due to concerns over the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Big East cancels at halftime of quarterfinal

While many of the major conferences had canceled their tournaments prior to noon ET, the Big East quarterfinal matchup between Creighton and St. John’s tipped off at Madison Square Garden as scheduled.

The teams played a half of basketball with the Red Storm jumping out to a 38-35 lead over the top-seeded Bluejays before the conference made the decision to cancel the tournament at halftime around 1 p.m. ET.

“Following a call with our presidents and athletic directors and additional consultation with the City of New York, the Big East Conference has cancelled the remainder of our men’s basketball tournament, effective immediately,” the conference said in a statement. “We believe the decision is in the best interests of our participants and fans.”

Conferences suspend spring sports

In addition to canceling basketball tournaments, many conferences are significantly altering their spring sports schedules.

The SEC announced on Thursday that all regular season sports and championship events are suspended until March 30. That includes all on and off-campus recruiting, commissioner Greg Sankey said.

The Pac-12 announced that all sports and championship events are canceled “until further notice.”

Conference USA has suspended its 2020 spring athletic season until further notice, effective immediately.

The Mountain West has done the same.

Duke, a member of the ACC, has “suspended all athletic competition for the foreseeable future,” including the men’s basketball team. The ACC as a whole later followed the same path.

Later Thursday, the Big Ten announced the cancellation of all conference and non-conference competitions “through the end of the academic year, including spring sports that compete beyond the academic year.” The Big Ten has also instituted a “moratorium on all on- and off-campus recruiting activities for the foreseeable future.”

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