INDIANAPOLIS — The Big Ten Conference has canceled the remainder of its men’s basketball league tournament because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Four games were scheduled Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, including an afternoon second-round contest matching Iowa and Minnesota.
Other conference tourneys around the country, including the Big 12, also canceled the remainders of their league tournaments. The Big East tourney’s Creighton-St. John’s game in New York started as scheduled, but was halted at halftime and the rest of the tournament was called off.
Next week’s NCAA tournament was canceled Thursday afternoon.
The Big Ten’s statement: “The Big Ten Conference announced today that it will be canceling the remainder of the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament, effective immediately.
“The Big Ten Conference will use this time to work with the appropriate medical experts and institutional leadership to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The main priority of the Big Ten Conference continues to be the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, fans and media as we continue to monitor all developing and relevant information on the COVID-19 virus.”
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Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren spoke Thursday to the media who were here for the scheduled games.
“I think the biggest thing is the uncertainty,” Warren said.
“I’m a big believer in asking a lot of questions, gathering information, and making decisions based upon the best information that I have. “And this was one of those situations that there were a lot of people who were telling me ‘I don’t know,’ and I get concerned when I hear ‘I don’t know’ a few (too) many times.
“I don’t want to have any regrets and I just want to make sure as a conference we do the right things. If something had gone awry here I don’t want to be in a position looking back saying ‘If only we would have ... canceled this tournament.”
The conference announced Wednesday that the game’s of Thursday through Sunday would be played without fans. Two games were played here Wednesday night with fans.
Iowa’s team arrived in Indianapolis Tuesday night and attended the first half of Minnesota’s win over Northwestern Wednesday. The Hawkeyes are a virtual certainty to get an NCAA tournament berth should that field be announced Sunday.
Michigan and Rutgers players warmed up on the court here up until about 20 minutes before the scheduled noon start.
“These are not easy decisions,” Warren said, “but I feel very good that with the decision we have made at the Big Ten Conference to cancel our men’s basketball tournament.”
“We are in full support of Commissioner Kevin Warren and Big Ten Conference presidents and administrators in cancelling the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament,” said Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta. “This is a fluid situation that is new to all of us. We will continue to monitor information through the Big Ten Conference and NCAA and move forward accordingly.”
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“First and foremost,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said, “our prayers are with those who have been affected by the coronavirus as well as those responsible for the decisions that affect so many. Following the advice from global health professionals, the Big Ten made a very difficult, but correct decision.
“I am incredibly proud of my team and this decision does not diminish everything that we have accomplished this season. While our players, coaches, and fans are all disappointed, the bigger picture of the health and well-being of everyone must be our top priority.”
The National Basketball Association announced Wednesday that it was suspending its season. Warren said the Big Ten is unlikely to merely postpone its tourney.
“I would say no,” he said. “We wanted to make it clear that we’re canceling it.”
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