Fans express disappointment as basketball tournaments close to the public

ACC, SEC, Big Ten among conferences playing in near-empty arenas; NCAA Tournament will do the same next week

Fans express disappointment as basketball tournaments close to the public
College basketball’s five power conferences are among those that decided Wednesday to play their league tournaments without spectators.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - College basketball’s five power conferences are among those that decided Wednesday to play their league tournaments without spectators.

Coronavirus fears are causing cancellations all across the country in sports and in other areas. Even the NBA announced Wednesday night that it has suspended play until further notice.

In the ACC Tournament, the Louisville Cardinals are scheduled to play the Syracuse-North Carolina winner Thursday at approximately 9:30 p.m. ET, at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C.

In the SEC Tournament, top-seeded Kentucky is scheduled to play the Alabama-Tennessee winner Friday at 1 p.m. ET, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.

In the Big Ten Tournament, Indiana defeated Nebraska on Wednesday night, 89-64. The Hoosiers will play Penn State at approximately 9 p.m. Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

In Division II, Bellarmine is scheduled to play Michigan Tech on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Indianapolis. Knights coach Scotty Davenport said playing in a near-empty arena will require some adjusting.

“It’s very similar to a practice,” he said. “As a coach, you have to be on your job, because what you would normally yell in a game cause of the crowd and the band, the officials can’t hear a thing you say. Now they will hear everything, so I think that has to be an adjustment.”

Earlier Wednesday, the NCAA announced that its tournament will be played without spectators when it starts next week. Only essential staff and limited family members will be allowed to attend.

Thousands of basketball fans like Glen Donlon said they planned to follow their teams across the country for March Madness.

“It was questionable,” Donlon said. “Now we don’t have a choice.”

Added UK fan Bruce Johnston: “I think it’s a shame. A lot of people look forward to it all year, especially Kentucky fans. I think it’s blown way out of proportion, and I just think it’s a shame for the fans that aren’t going to get to go to the games.”

Fans told WAVE 3 News they're disappointed both for themselves and other fans, but also the players.

“'That’s rough,” Donlon said. “You know, cause a lot of these kids, that’s all they played for is March Madness. So now that could be taken away from them; the full experience could be taken away.”

While some were planning to travel, fans now have to settle for watching the games on TV, crowding local bars and restaurants like Bungalow Joe’s.

"This is our busiest week of the whole year and the busiest month of the whole year in this business," Bungalow Joe's Owner Joe Bishop said.

While the economic impacts from this will be felt across the country, local businesses are hopeful it won't affect them.

“The people that won’t come out will be offset by the people that would’ve gone to the games that will come anyone,” Bishop said. “I have a feeling this is going to be a wash.”

Copyright 2020 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.