IOWA CITY — So that’s how it ends.
There will be no Selection Monday. No March Madness. No NCAA tournament.
The women’s college basketball season came to abrupt halt Thursday, when NCAA president Mark Emmert and the board of governors canceled the women’s and men’s tournaments, as well as “all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is a shocking and unprecedented way to end a season,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “I feel especially sad for our seniors that will not get the opportunity to wear the Iowa uniform again.”
Iowa (23-7) was a cinch to be selected as one of the 64 NCAA women’s teams Monday, and perhaps one of the 16 host sites for the first and second round.
“I would (have rather postponed) the tournament a couple of weeks than cancel it altogether,” Bluder said in a phone interview earlier in the day. “The players have worked hard all year, and deserve it. The seniors, especially.”
According to the NCAA release, the decision was based on “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 Big Ten men’s tournament was canceled earlier Thursday, as were the Big 12 men’s and women’s tournaments.
“It’s a shock, just a shock,” Bluder said.
In a statement, Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said Thursday, “We fully support the actions being taken by the Big Ten Conference and the NCAA, knowing that the health, safety, and wellness of our student-athletes and staff members is the top priority.
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“My heart aches for our student-athletes, coaches, and athletic staff, as our spring sports seasons are cut short, especially for our seniors. I sympathize with our winter sports teams who were primed to compete at their upcoming NCAA events.”
Iowa’s final game of the season was an 87-66 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals last Friday. The Hawkeyes’ last win was 14 days ago, on Senior Night against Minnesota.
Bluder felt her team was primed to bounce back.
“Our last three practices have been three of our best practices of the season,” she said. “We had a lot of energy. The seniors have said, ‘Let’s get better.’”
Thursday’s news brings an end of the careers of Kathleen Doyle, Makenzie Meyer and Amanda Ollinger.
Doyle was the Big Ten player of the year, and all-America honors probably are forthcoming.
“She was unbelievable,” Bluder said. “It’s an amazing accomplishment.”
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