It looks like the first games of the 2020 NCAA Tournament will be played without fans in attendance.
Ohio governor Mike DeWine told reporters on Wednesday that he will issue an order banning “mass gatherings” in the state due to concerns around the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has told reporters that there will soon be an order for no mass gatherings in Ohio, which includes the First Four in Dayton and the NCAA Tournament in Cleveland.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 11, 2020
For as long as the order stands, that means fans will not be admitted to sporting events, including the First Four in Dayton next week and the First/Second Round pod in Cleveland.
As recently as Tuesday morning, tournament organizers and Turner were ready to proceed as planned despite the health risks as the pandemic escalates. Just hours later, however, the Ivy League announced it would cancel its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The MAC and Big West also announced Tuesday that it would play its tournament games without fans. On Wednesday morning, the CBI said it would cancel its postseason tournament.
It is possible that other states will force the NCAA’s hand on this and give us more pods played in empty arenas. For updates on all the Coronavirus-related scheduling changes, check out our tracker here.
We won’t know for sure which teams will have to play in empty arenas until Selection Sunday, but based on current resumes, teams like Robert Morris (NEC) and Winthrop (Big South) could be candidates. ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi projects Dayton to be the 1 seed in the East, playing its first two games in Cleveland. Losing the rabid Flyer fanbase for the first weekend would be a tough, albeit necessary blow to the greatest four days in college basketball.