The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be held without any fans in attendance this year, due to the COVID-19 (aka coronavirus) outbreak. NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the decision on Wednesday afternoon, right in the middle of the ongoing conference tournaments, many of which are still being played in full arenas.
According to the press release, the only people allowed on tournament sites will be the players and coaches, essential staff and a limited amount of family members. The NCAA’s official statement reads:
“The NCAA continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 in consultation with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel. Based on their advice and my discussions with the NCAA Board of Governors, I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance. While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States.
This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes. We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families. Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed.”
The official brackets for the men’s tournament will be unveiled on Sunday night. Typically, the top seeds are placed in regions nearby their school, giving those teams a home-court advantage in the opening rounds – but there will be no such advantages this year as all games will essentially be played on an eerily quiet neutral floor.