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NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments to be played without spectators

Only “essential staff and limited family attendance” will be allowed into the NCAA Tournament this March.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

The 2020 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments will be played in mostly empty arenas, the NCAA announced on Wednesday. President Mark Emmert said in a statement that the event will be restricted to just “essential staff and limited family attendance.”

The games will still be played and broadcast on television, though it is still unclear if media will be allowed into the games, per CBS Sports’ Seth Davis.

The NCAA’s decision will have a direct effect on UConn. The school will likely host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament between March 26-30 at Gampel Pavilion. Those three games will all be held in front of a severely limited crowd after this decision.

Geno Auriemma released a statement on the situation late Wednesday:

“It’s unfortunate that these measures have to be taken at this time, but we are experiencing something unprecedented. As much as our fans and players are disappointed, I truly believe they understand that this is the prudent and responsible thing to do.

“My heart goes out to those who are suffering from this virus and to those who have or may lose loved ones.

“Please take all the necessary precautions to minimize your exposure and enjoy the games on ESPN.”

This unprecedented move comes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic — also known as the novel coronavirus. Late Wednesday night, UConn announced it will move to online classes beginning the week after spring break, March 23, until April 6, when it will re-evaluate the situation.

The school also barred events of larger than 100 people. While athletic games will continue for now, no spectators will be allowed.

The latter comes on recommendation from the NCAA, which released a statement earlier in the day urging all NCAA events be closed to the public with only essential personnel and limited family attendance allowed in. Unlike the decision to close off the NCAA Tournament, this is not a mandate from the organization.

The UConn men’s basketball team is currently in Ft. Worth, Texas for the AAC Tournament, where the conference has yet to make a decision on fan attendance. Per Dave Borges and Ed Daigneault, American officials described the situation as “fluid” in the wake of the NCAA’s announcement.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken reported that the AAC will not allow fans for this weekend’s conference tournament, and the American confirmed this shortly before 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

The men’s NIT will also be held without fans. If the Huskies fail to make the NCAA Tournament, they are expected to host in the NIT.

Elsewhere, the UConn men’s hockey team is also preparing for the conference tournament and is scheduled to travel up to Orono, Maine for the quarterfinals of the Hockey East playoffs on Thursday. Both UMass and UMass Lowell will play its respective series without fans after the University of Massachusetts announced it will move to online classes at all its campuses. As of now, UConn’s series against Maine is expected to carry on like normal this weekend.

On Monday, the school released a statement that said all UConn’s athletic teams will continue to travel to all its games despite Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont instituting a travel ban on state employees for state business.

Other organizations have taken more drastic measures as Harvard men’s hockey withdrew itself from the ECAC Tournament while the Ivy League first cut its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments before canceling all spring sporting events through the end of the school year. On a local level, the CIAC — the governing body of Connecticut high school sports — canceled the state tournament for all winter sports.

For what it’s worth, the Big East will be holding its conference tournament at Madison Square Garden “as planned,” per multiple reports.

We’ll continue to update this page as more information becomes available.