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COVID-19

Sports >  EWU basketball

Big Sky Conference cancels remainder of tournament

UPDATED: Thu., March 12, 2020

Eastern Washington Eagles guard Casson Rouse (5) shoots against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks during a college basketball game on Saturday, February 22, 2020, at EWU in Cheney, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Eastern Washington Eagles guard Casson Rouse (5) shoots against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks during a college basketball game on Saturday, February 22, 2020, at EWU in Cheney, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

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BOISE – The Big Sky Conference canceled the remainder of its men’s women’s basketball tournaments at CenturyLink Arena today amid growing coronavirus concerns.

No. 1 seed Eastern Washington, the men’s regular-season champion, was set to play No. 9 Sacramento State in an 11 a.m quarterfinal.

The announcement – the latest in a string of tournament cancelations across the country, including the Pac-12 – came 90 minutes before tipoff.

There have been no confirmed coronovirus cases in Boise as of Thursday morning.

“This decision was not made lightly, as we know how meaningful our basketball championships is to our student-athletes, coaches, alumni, and fans,” Big Sky commisioner Tom Wistrcill said. “After consulting with medical experts, local authorities, and the leadership of our institutions, we feel that this decision is prudent given the health and well-being of all involved.”

By virtue of winning the regular-season title and earning the No. 1 seed before the Big Sky Tournament’s cancellation, the Eagles will advance to next week’s NCAA Tournament.

EWU will learn its first-round opponent and destination on Sunday.

But this isn’t how third-year EWU head coach Shantay Legans wanted to earn the program’s third trip to the Big Dance.

“I feel for the seniors in the conference. They don’t really have any closure,” Legans said. “They’re always going to think what could have been. It leaves a bad a taste in your mouth, but you understand why. Portland State was on a six-game winning streak, and they won’t get the opportunity to try and win this tournament.”

The NCAA announced Wednesday that the NCAA Tournament and its several host sites, including Spokane, will be played without fans, an effort to curb the spread of a virus that has infected more than 1,000 of people across the country this week.

With the NBA and NHL suspending their respective seasons, many pundits believe the NCAA Tournament may also be suspended.

EWU senior Mason Peatling, the Big Sky Conference’s Most Valuable Player, hopes he hasn’t played his college final game.

“It’s too hard to tell (if the NCAA Tournament will be canceled) at this stage,” Peatling said. “Everything is following the crowd, a lot of herding behavior.”

“If we do happen to play in the NCAA Tournament, we’re going to be very excited,” Legans said.

The No. 2 seed Idaho women’s basketball team, which advanced to the Big Sky Tournament title game after beating Idaho State on Wednesday night, won’t get the opportunity to earn a berth to the NCAA Tournament.

The Vandals (22-9) were set to face No. 1 seed Montana State in Friday’s title game. The Bobcats will advance to the NCAA Tournament.

Idaho coach Jon Newlee talked about the coronavirus pandemic following Idaho’s Wednesday night win.

“I think there’s some mass hysteria going on…I don’t think there’s any reason to panic,” Newlee said. “I think people are pushing the panic button a little quick right now.”

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