Mark Emmert and the NCAA announced today that The 2020 NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be played in empty arenas because of coronavirus fears. That means there will be no fan reaction to crazy buzzer beaters, no fans getting behind the pesky underdog as they go toe-to-toe with higher seeds, and no “One Shining Moment” montage at the end of the tournaments. Locally, what really sucks is that the Oregon women team won’t get the celebration they deserve.
The Sweet 16 and Elite 8 were set to be played in the Moda Center, and the Ducks were an essential lock to be placed in the Portland regional. It wasn’t a 100 percent guarantee they would get there, but lets be realistic and call it a 99.9 percent chance they would. 20,000 plus fans clad in green and yellow were set to fill the Moda Center. It was going to be a celebration of the rise of women’s basketball. A chance for the nation to see how a group of incredible women made the state so basketball crazy. A chance for Portland to prove they can host a future Final Four. A chance for Sabrina Ionescu, arguably the best women’s college basketball player of all time, to play one final time in her adopted state. A chance for Oregon fans to say goodbye and thank you for the past four seasons.
The NCAA made the right call. It’s always the right choice to lean towards safety rather than being sorry in the long run. The coronavirus is a very real threat and it needs to be taken seriously. It just sucks that Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard, and Satu Sabally won’t get the goodbye they deserve.