NCAA tried to save March Madness with 16-team tournament

The NCAA canceled all championship events on Thursday.

Madison Square Garden after NCAA college basketball games in the men's Big East Conference tournament were cancelled.
Madison Square Garden after NCAA college basketball games in the men's Big East Conference tournament were cancelled. –Mary Altaffer/AP Photo

As it became apparent the NCAA basketball tournaments could not be held over three weeks because of concerns about the coronavirus, organizers scrambled to devise a plan for a 16-team event to salvage the postseason in one long weekend. NCAA vice president of men’s basketball Dan Gavitt told AP he started to consider ways of condensing the tournament Wednesday night after the NBA announced one of its players tested positive for the virus and the league suspended its season.

The NCAA canceled its basketball tournaments and all other remaining championship events on Thursday in response to the coronavirus pandemic. That came a day after the association had announced it planned to play the games while restricting fan access. “We did spend a significant amount of time very late Wednesday night trying to figure out alternative models,” Gavitt said Friday.

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The idea was to have the selection committee choose the top 16 teams in the country, regardless of conference, to participate. The first three rounds would have been played from Thursday to Saturday, with a championship game Monday night. Gavitt said he believes eight or nine of the 32 Division I conferences could have been represented.

Extra eligibility granted

An NCAA committee granted another year of eligibility to scores of college athletes whose seasons were abruptly cut short by concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The Division 1 Council Coordinator Committee announced its “leadership agreed that eligibility relief is appropriate for all Division I student-athletes who participated in spring sports,” a day after the NCAA canceled all winter and spring championship athletic events … Tim Cluess, who led Iona to six NCAA Tournament appearances, resigned to focus on making a full recovery from a recent health concern. Cluess led the Gaels to a 199-106 record in his nine seasons. He won five Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament championships, including the last four, and four regular-season titles … Minnesota coach Richard Pitino will return for his eighth season with the program, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed.

Young fan may have been contracted virus from NBA player

A Rhode Island police chief said a young resident being treated for the coronavirus might have contracted it from an NBA player. According to the Providence Journal, Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey said the child, whom he did not name, attended a Celtics game last week and got an autograph from an infected player, whom he also did not name. The Celtics played the Jazz March 6; at least two Jazz players — stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell — have since tested positive for the coronavirus … TNT analyst Charles Barkley, 57, revealed he was in self-quarantine upon advice of doctors after describing that he “wasn’t feeling well.” He said he was administered a test for coronavirus Thursday afternoon, and was still awaiting results … Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson went ahead with surgery for a right shoulder injury that had sidelined him for three weeks.

Torch relay suspended

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The Greek Olympic committee suspended the rest of its torch relay because of the “unexpectedly large crowd” that gathered to watch in Athens despite repeated requests for the public to stay away to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The handover of the Olympic Flame to the Tokyo organizing committee will go ahead as scheduled March 19 at the stadium in Athens where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896.

Semenya switching to 200 meters

Caster Semenya is looking for another Olympic run. A different one, too. Banned from competing in her favorite race and defending her title, the Olympic 800-meter champion is trying to make the Tokyo Games anyway — by switching to the 200 meters.

New president facing huge challenges

New US Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone’s first challenge will be to confront the fallout over the federation’s widely condemned legal stance in the gender discrimination lawsuit filed by the women’s national team. The first woman president in the 107-year history of the governing body will also oversee the appointment of a new chief executive and early preparations for the 2026 World Cup. A former national team midfielder who became the federation’s vice president last year, Parlow Cone took on her new role Thursday when president Carlos Cordeiro abruptly stepped down.

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