Men's Basketball, Sports, Women's Basketball, WVU Sports

Big 12, NCAA tourneys canceled means careers end for five West Virginia players

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — The Big 12 Conference joined several other major Power 5 leagues around the country Thursday in canceling the remainder of its men’s and women’s postseason basketball tournaments.

The NCAA tournament survived World War II and a national gambling scandal in the 1950s.

It could not do the same against the coronavirus.

Through a prepared statement Thursday, the organization canceled the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments that were set to begin next week in an effort to limit the spreading of the COVID-19 virus.

“Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships,” the release said. “This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, 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 decision ultimately ended the basketball careers of three seniors from the WVU men’s basketball team and two from the women’s team.

In a separate announcement, WVU athletic director Shane Lyons said that all upcoming WVU athletic events would be suspended through March 29, which coincides with the Big 12’s announcement that it too was suspending all conference regular-season activities, as well as on- and off-campus recruiting through that date..

According to that press release, no team or recruiting travel will be permitted during the time frame and no recruiting visits, official or unofficial, will be permitted to campus.

The department will reevaluate the situation daily leading into the March 29 deadline.

“I want our student-athletes, coaches and fans to be safe and for our department to follow the recommendations of the medical professionals. This is a necessary precaution to ensure the safety of our university, community, teams and support staff,” Lyons said. “The situation is fluid and we will monitor it daily to make the best decisions for all involved.”

The WVU basketball teams were in Kansas City on Thursday, preparing to play in their respective Big 12 tournaments, but league commissioner Bob Bowlsby, after conversations with fellow Big 12 school officials and conference commissioners, decided to cancel the remainder of those tournaments.

He was joined in that decision by the commissioners of the other Power 5 leagues — the SEC, ACC, Pac-12 and Big Ten — in shutting down their tournaments.

“Heartbroken,” WVU senior forward Logan Routt tweeted.

Routt, along with teammates Chase Harler and Jermaine Haley saw their college careers come to an end, while Tynice Martin and Lucky Rudd saw their WVU women’s careers come to a halt.

Martin was attempting to become just the fourth WVU women’s player to reach 2,000 career points. Her career ended with 1,980 points.

It is the first time the NCAA tournament, which bean in 1939, has ever been canceled.

The WVU men’s team was scheduled to play Oklahoma at 9 p.m. Thursday, but the news of the Big 12 tournament being canceled began to break just before noon, when members of the Texas and Texas Tech men’s basketball teams were taken back to their locker rooms while warming up for their quarterfinal game.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed for our team, our staff and all of Mountaineer Nation, particularly in light as to how our team responded so well in recent games and practices after a tough stretch of the season,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said. “However, this is a very serious matter globally and the health and safety of all involved is the priority.”

The WVU women’s team was set to play Texas at 8:30 p.m. Friday.

Both teams were still in Kansas City on Thursday, but WVU spokesperson Michael Fragale told The Dominion Post that the players and coaches were not quarantined to their hotel rooms and were allowed to walk around the city.

WVU was also scheduled to host the Big 12 gymnastics championship on March 21, but Bowlsby confirmed all future Big 12 championship events would be canceled through April 15.

Both WVU and the Big 12 announced that a process would be initiated to refund fans their money spent on purchasing tickets to either the Big 12 men’s or women’s tournament.

The coronavirus was labeled a pandemic on Wednesday by the World Health Organization.

The Big 12’s decision to cancel their tournaments fell in line with the NBA’s decision to suspend it’s regular season on Wednesday. The NHL did the same on Thursday.

TWEET @bigjax3211