New York Post - 13.03.2020

(Ben Green) #1
New York Post, Friday, March 13, 2020

NOTHING TO SEE:The St. John’s mascot has most of the Garden to
himself after the Big EastTo urnamentwas called at halftime of St. John’s
quarterfinal with Creighton. N.Y. Post: CharlesWenzelberg


OUR heart breaksfor all the
student-athletes, all these kids
with the biggest dreamsat Seton
Hall, and the kids with theCinderella
dreamsat Hofstra, aswell as the kids
from the other 66 schoolswho could
not wait to stand and cheer as onefor
whichever bracket SelectionSunday
had waitingfor them.
Your heart breaks especiallyfor the
seniorswho ne ver got to experience
the magicof March Madness, more so
than the one-and-doneswho will be in
the NBA next season.
One ShiningMoment isn’treserved
exclusively for the
eventual NCAATour-
nament champions,
it can be traveling
with your basket-
ball brothersto a cit y
you ha ve never been
to and stepping ona
court inside an arena
packed withfans ral-
lying to David’s side
and rootingfor you to nail Goliath right
between theeyes with a slingshot.
Alas, the lightswent out on One
ShiningMoment, be itat the startof
March Madness orat the endof it.
MarchSadness instead.
See, thegames willgo on whenever
this insidiousCOVID-19 globalpan-
demic decidesto stop holding America
and American sports hostage, but only
for the NBAplayers and the MLBplay-
ers and the NHLplayers and the NFL
players in August and beyond, andfor
future millionaires likeJames Wiseman
of Memphis and AnthonyEdwards of
Georgia and LaMelo Ballof the Illawar-
ra Hawks andCole Anthonyof North
Carolina and ObiToppinof Dayton,
who willrealize their ultimate dreams
at the NBA draft — presumably on
June 25 at Barclays Center. God will-
ing, of course, thatNew York’s state
of emergency that began onThursday
banninggroups inexcessof 500 people
will be a distant memoryby then, and
this living nightmare will beover.
The NCAA, asevery other league
andsanctioning body, had no other
choice butto call timeout.
Whenyou are dealing with theterri-
fying prospectof quarantines andcom-
munity spread and social distancing,
with a deadly virusfor which there is
no vaccine, survive and advance is no
longer an option.
Only survive.
No one could guarantee that there
wasn’t aRudy Gobert giving it the
old college try, or a Donovan Mitchell
infecting ateammate or opponent or
ref or announcer, etc.
We should all have listened sooner
to Dr. AnthonyFauci, directorof the
National Institute of Allergy and Infec-
tious Diseases,who warned us that the
worst was yet to come.
So thiswas no timefor halfway,

hope-for-the-best measures. Banning
fans and limitingattendeesto “student-
athletes,coaches,event staff, essential
team andconference staff, television
personnel, credentialed media and
immediate family membersof the par-
ticipating teams”was no longer enough
once the Gobert-Mitchell dominofell.
The Big EastTournamentwas irr e-
sponsible at best andrecklessat worst
allowingawakeningSt. John’s, 20 years
after its last championship, and Creigh-
ton to start their surreal noon quarterfi-
nal game onThursday with maybe 100
Creightonfans and 50St. John’s fans
in the stands before
Madison Bare Gar-
den homeat half-
time, better la te than
Common sense
finally prevailed,
thankfully, over dol-
lars andcents.
Shed atear for
littleHofstra, which would have gone
dancingfor thefirst time since2001.
What a shame.
“I worked so hardto get her e,” senior
guard Desure Buietweeted late in the
afternoon. “That’sWild smh I’m hurt
At 5:53, therewas thistweet from
Seton Hall Big East Player of the Year
Myles Powell:
“At least I ended a champion.”
Alas hewanted so much more than
sharing the Big Eastregular-season
title with Creighton andVillanova.
I hadsat down withPowell af ter the
Hall’sTuesday practice, and asked him:
Would anything shortof a Final Four
be a failure?
“I wouldn’teven say Final Four,”
Powell said. “I mean,we’ve beentalk-
ing about championship sincewe took
our trip inItaly. So I don’teven want to
cut us that short. I justwant to win the
championship. Sowhatever we gotta
do to make itto the championship
game, that’swhat I want to do. I don’t
want to put no limits on us — Elite
Eight,Sweet 16, Final Four, noneof that.
We’re taking championshiptalk, andI
just want to talk it intoexistence. I just
see usfinding away to get to the cham-
Of course he had harbored aFinal
Four dream.
Even though he will have a legitimate
shotto play in the NBA, he will have
to carry that belief with himfor the
rest of his life, and wonderwhat might
have been.No more buzzer-beaters , no
morebands playing, no more climb-
ing ladders and cutting down nets,for
Myles Powell, for an yone in the spring
when One ShiningMomentwent dark,
replacedby One ScaryMoment.
One ShiningMoment.
This is One ScaryMoment.
[email protected]


The final imageof this
collegebasketball season
was of an empty Madison
Square Garden,St. John’s
and Creightonplaying one
halfof basketball in front
of only immediate family
members, cheerleaders and
a few hundredfans, while
virtually allof the othercon-
fere nces had already can-
celed theirtournaments as
the coronaviruspandemic
swept thecountry.
A fewhours later, the
NCAA canceled itstourna-

ment, effectivelyending the
collegebasketball season
just as its most popular peri-
od would betypicallyget-
ting into fullswing. It was an
odd andawkward few hours
at the quiet Garden. While
the BigTen, SEC, AAC,
ACC andAtlantic10 didn’t
let anyof their noongames
begin, the Big East allowed
St. John’s and Creightonto
play on.
“You all can second-guess
our decisionto play that
first half.That’s your pre-
rogative.” commissioner
Val Ackermansaid ina

the tournament’s cancella-
tion. “But I can assureyou
we were doing the bestwe
could with the information
we had.”
Big Eastofficials,athletic
directors and presidents
were in a pre-scheduled
meeting afew blocks from
the Gardenat 10 a.m.,
accordingto Ackerman,
a timewhen mostconfer-
encewere still planningto
go ahead with theirtourna-
ments. Shortly before noon,
as wordspreadof the can-
cellations,Ackerman began

reaching outto thosesame
people she had met with and
conferred withNew York
City healthofficials. By then,
St. John’s and Creighton had
already begunplaying. The
Big East, shesaid, was not
given a heads-up that other
leagueswere planning can-
“It was our view thatwe
didn’tfeel likewe neededa
dramatic, pull-the-players-
of-the-game gesture,” Acker-
mansaid. “Folkswere here.
We just literally didn’t think
that another15 or 20 min-

utes of game timewas going
to make that muchof a dif-
fere nce. That said, we didn’t
think itwas appropriate to
send theathletesback out
on to the floor during the
halftime. So, itwas a judg-
ment call thatwe made.”
St. John’s athletic director
Mike Craggtold The Post
he wasn’t surprisedto see
his team’s game start.He
was more surprised other
conferences cancelled their
tournamentswhen they did
becauseThursday morn-
ing the Big East had spoken
to the NCAA and therewas

no indication anything had
changed.He felt Ackerman
handled the situationwell,
adjustingbased on howfast
thingswere moving.
“She showed real-time
leadership throughout the
week,” hesaid.
With theRed Storm ahead
38-35 at the break, the call
was finally madeto call off
the final three days of the
tournament, ending a strong
run thatsaw St. John’s win
threeof its lastfour games.
The st ats from thegame
were voided and no winner
was declared.

“This is a situation thatI
have never experienced before
and I know ourteam has never
experienced it,”St. John’s coach
Mike Andersonsaid in a state-
ment. “Ourguys are very dis-
appointed.We feel likewe’ve
beenplaying someof our better
basketball, butat the same time
this is bigger thanbasketball
with thiscoronavirus.This has
a worl dwide effect and that’sa
game of life. I’m gladto see our
leadership made the decisionto
cancel thetournament. Again,
we were disappointed butat the
same time it’s the right thingto
do. I’m just proudof our guys,

the fans that came out and sup-
ported us.”
On Wednesday, the NCAA
Tournament announced it
would bebanningfans from
attendinggames. In theeve-
ning, the NBA suspended its
season. Shortly thereafter, the
Big East announced itwould be
restrictingfan attendance. And
Thursday, several other leagues
followed the NBA’s example,
shortly beforetheir quarterfi-
nal andfirst roundswere set to
Lookingback, Ackermansaid
she didn’tregret not cancel-
ing thetournamentWednesday

night, becauseNew York State
officials hadyet to ba n lar ge gath-
eringsof 500 people or more, as
they didby the middleof Thurs-
day afternoon.The NBA’s deci-
sionto suspend its seasonwas
differe nt, because it had aplayer,
Jazz centerRudy Gobert,who
contracted the virus.
“All I cantell you is based on
the information thatwe had at
the time [Wednesday] night
we thought itwas prudentto
move forward with limited
attendance, which we did,”Ack-
ermansaid. “Butwe were pre-
pared to adjust as needed, and
that’swhat we’ve done now.”


There will be no mad-
ness, no buzzer-beaters , no
For thefirst time since
1938, there will be no NCAA
Capping oneof the most
disappointing andrespon-
sible24-hour spans in the
historyof American sports, the
NCAA made the unprecedented
and once-unthinkable announce-
mentThursday that itwould can-
cel its signatureevent dueto con-
cerns regard ing thecoronavirus
With SelectionSunday a little
more than72 hoursawayand
men’s first- roundgames sched-
uledto beginTuesday, the NCAA
executed the most stunning
March momentof all time inter-
minating oneof the nation’s most
beloved tr aditions.
The cancellation impacts all
winter and spring NCAA cham-
pionships, including thewomen’s
basketballtournament andCol-
legeWorld Series,which was
scheduledfor June.
“This decision isbased on the
evolvingCOVID-19 public health

threat, our abilityto ensure the
events do notcontribute tothe
spreadof the pandemic, and the
impracticalityof hosting such
eventsat any time during this
academicyear given ongoing
decisionsby other entities,” the
NCAA announced.
The needfor the historic and
preventative measurewas illus-
trated when itwas la ter revealed
that agame official who worked
in theColonialAthletic Asso-
ciationTournamenttested posi-
tive for coronavirus, but didn’t
exhibitsymptomsof the virus
until72 hours after thegame. On
Wednesday, the NCAAattempted
to salvage its marqueetourna-
ment, deciding thatgames would
be played withoutfans inatten-
dance. But after Rudy Gobertof
the Utah Jazz tested positive for

the virus and the NBA suspended
all play, every major sports league
followed suit, with the NHL,
MLB, MLS and protennis tours —
among others — all halting action.
The NCAA,which first held its
nationalbasketballtournament in
1939 and continued throughWorld
War II — long before the must-see
event rake d in billionsof dollars
and was hosted
by 14cities each
year —faced
more pressure
when perennial
contenders Duke and Kansas both
essentially declared theywould
suspend allathleticcompetition
for thefore seeable future.
However, countlesscoaches and
players were blindsidedby the
announcement,expecting a post-
ponement as an initial measure.
“I never thought itwould get
canceled,”said Hofstra coach Joe
Mihalich,who had led thePride
to the school’sfirst tournament
berth since2001. “Everybodyfelt
that way. Postpone it. Oneof three
things happens: If itgets worse,
thenyou cancel it. If itgets better,
all right, let’s have the tournament.
If it stays thesame, thenyou’re
dealt with thesame tough deci-

sion and it cango eitherway.
“Therange of emotions,we’re
just devastated. This is thefirst
time in19 years our university is
going to the tournament and the
euphoria quickly becomes heart-
As of Thursday morning,con-
fere nce tournamentswere sched-
uledto continue in near-empty
arenas —Rut-
gers and Michi-
gan warmed up
on thecourt for
their BigTen
Tournament matchup — buta
flurryof cancellations came from
virtuallyevery league, hinting
at the devastating gut-punchto
St. John’s and Creighton
strangely began their Big East
quarterfinal game, but the league
canceled thetournamentat half-
time. OnWednesday night, Madi-
son Square Gardenwas nearly full
for a doubleheader. One day later,
Mayor Bill de Blasio declareda
state of emergency in the city and
stated thefamed arena — sched-
uledto host the EastRegional
— would likely be shuttered for
Now, collegebasketballwon’t

return until thefall —at the ear-
liest — crushing the dreamsof
seniorswhose final seasons have
been unexpectedly cut short
and long-suffering programs like
Rutgers, which was projectedto
advance to its first NCAATourna-
ment in 29years.
“I type this with a heavy heart,
but on behalfof me andmy team-
mates I justwant to say thank
you,” leading scorerRon Harper
Jr. posted on social media. “The
year didn’t end theway we wanted
it to and itwas a big disappoint-
mentto all of us that the NCAA
Tournamentwas cancelled. But
we also understand thatwe need
to prioritizesafety first.”
Somecoaches held out hope the
bracketswould still bereleased on
Sunday, even if the dream match-
ups would never take place.
“I respect the NCAA’s decision
to put everyone’s safety first,” Ari-
zona State coach Bobby Hurley
tweeted. “Thatsaid, every team
deservesrecognitionfor their
season’s success. Brackets should
still be announced on Selection
Everyone deserves so much
[email protected]

For the college kids,

this ending is final

Steve Serby

After letting Johnnies and Creighton start, Big East ends its tournament at half



NCAA cancels

March Madness

for the first time

in its history



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