Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament canceled amid COVID-19 pandemic

Decision came minutes before Thursday’s games were slated to begin.

Gophers Center Daniel Oturu dunks the ball at Williams Arena on Wednesday, Jan. 15.  Minnesota defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions 75-69. (Kamaan Richards / Minnesota Daily)

Kamaan Richards

Gophers Center Daniel Oturu dunks the ball at Williams Arena on Wednesday, Jan. 15. Minnesota defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions 75-69. (Kamaan Richards / Minnesota Daily)

Nick Jungheim

Wednesday, the Gophers earned a 74-57 victory over Northwestern which they thought would extend their Big Ten Tournament run another day. Thursday, the conference decided that Minnesota, along with the rest of the teams, would play no more.

In a statement, the Big Ten announced that the remainder of the Big Ten Tournament would be canceled in order to assure the safety of of student athletes, coaches and administrators in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yesterday, the first two games of the tournament were played in front of fans at Bankers Life Field House in Indianapolis, Indiana. During the Gophers’ victory, it was announced that moving forward, only essential personnel and immediate family would be allowed in the stadium.

The decision to call off the tournament came just minutes before 11 a.m. central, when Rutgers and Michigan were scheduled to compete in Thursday’s first contest. Minnesota was scheduled to play Iowa at approximately 1:30 p.m.

Other major conferences made the decision to call off their tournaments around the same time Thursday morning, including the American Athletic Conference, Southeastern Conference, Big 12 Conference and more.

As of this time, it remains unknown whether the NCAA Tournament will proceed as scheduled. On Wednesday, the NCAA announced its intention to stage the tournament without fans in attendance.

With the cancellation of its conference tournament, the Big Ten has become the latest sports organization to suspend activity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It follows in the steps of the NBA, which announced it was immediately suspending the season Wednesday night, while the MLS decided to halt competition for 30 days effective Thursday morning.

Ramifications of COVID-19 will affect college athletics for the remainder of the 2019-20 sports calendar. Yesterday, the University of Minnesota announced that, in accordance with the Big Ten, all Gophers sporting events will be restricted to essential personnel through the remainder of the spring season.

As for the men’s basketball team, its season appears to be over. They will likely finish with a 16-17 overall record.