Editor's note: The majority of this story was first published on our Sports Illustrated Indiana site.
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The Big Ten men's basketball ournament has been canceled due to concerns about the novel coronavirus. The announcement came just minutes before the scheduled first game of the day on Thursday.
"The Big Ten Conference announced today that it will be canceling the remainder of the Big Ten Men’s Basketball tournament, effective immediately," said the league in a statement released Thursday morning. "The Big Ten Conference will use this time to work with the appropriate medical experts and institutional leadership to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The main priority of the Big Ten Conference continues to be the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, fans and media as we continue to monitor all developing and relevant information on the COVID-19 virus."
The move to cancel was not necessarily shocking after what went on Wednesday night when Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg got sick and had to be rushed to the hospital. He tested negative for coronaviras, but positive for the flu virus, influenza A.
The timing of the announcement was what was shocking, though. Michigan and Rutgers were supposed to play the first game on Thursday, and players from both teams were on the floor warming up in preparation for the Noon ET tipoff. Just moments beforehand, they were pulled off the floor.
With the cancellation, Purdue will not play Ohio State as planned and will finish the season with a 16-15 record.
That's the next interesting domino to fall, however. It will be interesting to see if the massive national event will be played as scheduled. The NCAA already had announced on Wednesday that the tournament would be played without fans. After all these cancellations — plus the postponement of the NBA season ..
"The final decision was made about 11:40 Eastern time and these are not easy decisions because they impact so many people,'' Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren told Andy Katz on the Big Ten Network Thursday afternoo . "But I said from my first day with the Big Ten, the players will always be my first priority in every decision that gets made.
"Yesterday was an emotional day, not only here but at other conferences and other sports as well. Nothing really changed from last night, I just needed some clarity. At the end of the day, this is about our student-athletes and I want to make sure we never put them in a position that's not best for them. I feel good that we did the right thing. If it turns out we overreacted, I'm comfortable with that."