BROOKLYN — The Atlantic 10 cancelled its conference championship just moments before the first second-round game between Massachusetts and VCU was scheduled to tip off.
As the teams were warming up in the closing minutes the Big Ten, AAC and SEC all cancelled their championships in succession.
“As the events unfolded over the past 24 hours – particular the NBA decision to cancel it became inevitable that there would be a cancellation of our tournament,” Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said in a statement through a university spokesperson. “It was a difficult administrative decision, but it’s the right one. The health and well being of all involved is number one without question.”
Moments after this, a conference spokesperson spoke to all three referees assigned to the game.
Though VCU and then UMass took to the floor to complete warmups. The teams got into position with less than 30 second before the buzzer sounded.
After a few seconds of delay, VCU coach Mike Rhoades shouted “thank you” to the 150 Rams fans in attendance. UMass coach Matt McCall was on his phone and the gestured for his team to head back to the locker room.
Teams then left the floor and the official cancellation announcement was made.
“The A-10 has made a decision to discontinue play as a result of the Covid-`9 virus,” Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade said in a conference-issued press release. “Given the rapid spread of the virus, this decision was supported by the Athletic Directors and Presidents’ Council. These are uncertain times for sure and we feel tremendous empathy for the student-athletes who will not have the opportunity to finish competing. However, the welfare of the student-athletes and the public is of utmost importance.”
Players cleared the floor with some teammates hugging each other, while VCU stayed to listen to its band, the Peppas play a couple of songs and Rhoades hugged redshirt senior Marcus Evans as this decision likely ends his playing career.
I can’t believe it’s over I’m heartbroken it wasn’t supposed to end that way I swear I had another run in me 😢
— M🅰️rcus Ev🅰️ns♨️ (@_Deucehoops) March 12, 2020
Not how I pictured my senior year ending 🥺🥺🥺 https://t.co/cIiKSwilFD
— Jón Axel Guðmundsson (@Jaxelinn) March 12, 2020
Man 🤦🏾♂️🤦🏾♂️ https://t.co/98fnsFl4rT
— Keonhumble🎋 (@Keonhumble) March 12, 2020
From a Duquesne perspective, Sincere Carry joined Richmond’s Nick Sherrod in voicing his displeasure an hour before the first game was to be played.
Duquesne was set to play Fordham in the fourth and final second round game at 8:30 p.m. Its postseason fate is unknown not just because of its record and conference standing, but also because of the strong potential of the NIT being cancelled, especially if all of the major conferences cancelled its respective championships.
THEY SAID IT
“I told our team when we got in the locker room, after the floor was cleared that 10 years from now, they’re going to remember exactly where they were when this happened. This happened so fast, you don’t sleep much the night before a game anyway. Every 30 minutes it seemed like I was checking my phone or checking Twitter to figure out if this game was going to be played.” – UMass coach Matt McCall
“Two minutes left in the warm-up, you’re out on the court, you have your game face on, you’re locked in and then no game. It is surreal, it really is.” – VCU coach Mike Rhoades
“Last night from our perspective, it was that we knew (the decision to cancel) could happen. We didn’t feel like we had the information necessary to make that decision at that time. We certainly got together knowing that mornign that this was going to be a very fluid situation… This has been a very quick process, a very quick discussion because things are changing so rapidly. At the end of the day, without exception, the benefit, health and safety of our student-athletes, fans, coaches and family members is the most critically important aspect of our jobs.” – Rhode Island AD Thorr Bjorn