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Big East Tournament goes on for now

John Rooke
March 11, 2020 - 10:11 pm
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It’s March.  Without the Madness.  And it will be strange.

The NCAA’s unprecedented decision to play next week’s basketball tournaments without fans in attendance was made, according to NCAA President Mark Emmert, “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.”

As of late Wednesday, the Big East Tournament will go on as scheduled Thursday, but with a restricted attendance policy.

“We’re looking to the City of New York for our direction,” was how Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman responded to a question Wednesday afternoon, while presenting the league Player and Coach of the Year awards, about whether the tournament will continue at Madison Square Garden this week.

“At this point they (the NYC Department of Health and Office of Emergency Management) have advised us that they are not recommending cancellation of large gatherings,” Ackerman added.

The Atlantic-10 Tournament, currently underway in Brooklyn, is also depending upon the City of New York for guidance.  Clearly, the city is in a very difficult position, with limited large gatherings also knifing into economic and tourism benefits.

“This is fast moving, everybody,” Ackerman said.  “We’re all trying to do the best we can with the information we have at the moment we have it.  We have not had any further guidance from the city, so the Garden is open tonight.  We’ll adjust as things unfold if needed.”

If the tournament continues unimpeded at the Garden this week, it will be the final time for fans to cheer for their teams in person.  That includes fans of the Providence Friars, who are all but assured to receive a bid to play in next week’s “fanless” NCAA tournament.

“It’s going to be a lot different,” PC coach Ed Cooley told Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal, “and a lot of the urgency in a basketball game comes from the fans.  It will still be intense, but the players, coaches and officials are definitely going to be affected.”

Cooley also mentioned he’s just glad the NCAA is going to hold the event, even with limitations.  “At the end of the day you just want to play,” Cooley added. “I think what the Ivy League did (cancel their teams’ appearances, followed by cancelling all spring athletic events) was an over-reaction.  They pulled the rug from under those seniors.  I feel really badly for them.”

Big East Tournament Notes

While the actual tournament play in the Garden may or may not continue this week, the league did announce the coaches’ choices for Player of the Year (Seton Hall’s Myles Powell), Coach of the Year (Creighton’s Greg McDermott) and Freshman of the Year (Villanova’s Jeremiah Robinson-Earl).  Butler’s Kamar Baldwin, set to take the floor Thursday afternoon against the Friars, was named the league’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year…Creighton’s 2nd team all-Big East guard, Marcus Zegarowski (from Hamilton, MA) has been ruled out of the tournament after suffering a meniscus tear in his knee during the team’s final regular season game and win over Seton Hall.  The Blue Jays are hoping he may be able to return at some point, should the team advance in the NCAA’s…the Big East had a 103-25 record in games played against non-conference opponents (.805), the highest winning percentage for any league this season…the Big East has two coaches who were also players in the tournament at MSG, Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing and Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard (who played at Pitt)…