Kansas point guard Devon Dotson needed just one word to describe his emotions after learning Thursday afternoon that the 2020 NCAA Tournament had been canceled amid concerns over the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
“Nightmare,” Dotson posted on Twitter.
This, a couple of hours after the all-Big 12 guard and 2019-20 All-American had reacted earlier Thursday to the cancelation of the Big 12 Tournament with the words, “Man no wayyyyyyyy.”
Just like that, the college basketball season was over before top-ranked Kansas could even leave the area to start down what it hoped would be a path to the Final Four.
By all accounts, the Jayhawks were poised to enter next week as the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed and one of the favorites to win the 2020 national title.
In addition to finishing the season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press and USA Today Top 25 polls, Bill Self’s Jayhawks, who finished the regular season at 28-3 and 17-1 en route to recapturing the Big 12 crown, were ranked No. 1 in ESPN’s BPI rankings, the KPI rankings, by Sagarin and on KenPom.com.
KU also had been ranked No. 1 in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings for most of the final month of the season. However, one last look on Thursday showed the Jayhawks listed at No. 2 in the NET rankings, behind Gonzaga.
Instead of capitalizing on the position their spots in those rankings had put them in, the Kansas players were left to contemplate finishing the month without a chance to compete for a national championship.
“Over that fast,” tweeted KU junior Marcus Garrett.
“I’m speechless,” said KU freshman Tristan Enaruna.
“Don’t know what to say or think,” added KU senior Mitch Lightfoot, who redshirted the 2019-20 season.
All of those responses were posted to social media.
Earlier Thursday, Self released a statement reacting to the Big 12’s decision to cancel the conference tournament.
“While we are disappointed for the players, it was the right and necessary thing to do,” Self said. “As I said (Wednesday), this is bigger than a sport or championship. I know our medical staff and the NCAA will research all avenues to determine the appropriate steps moving forward.”
Kansas women’s basketball coach Brandon Schneider, whose team finished 10th in the Big 12 this season and was slated to play at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, also released a statement.
“Our players were excited about the opportunity to compete in the Big 12 Tournament,” Schneider said. “However, in light of all the information that has become available in the past 24 hours, we understand cancelation was the appropriate response. The health and safety of our players will always be priority number one.”
The decision to exercise caution in the face of the spread of the virus extended well beyond college basketball.
KU Athletic Director Jeff Long said in a statement Thursday that all athletic-related travel had been canceled indefinitely, and home and away athletic events had been suspended in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The statement from Long came shortly after all NCAA conference basketball tournaments were canceled and with the fate of the NCAA Tournament still hanging in the balance.
“Our highest priority at Kansas Athletics is to ensure the safety and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff,” Long said. “Based on the recommendation of our medical professionals, we have canceled all athletic travel indefinitely. In addition, all home and away athletics events have been suspended indefinitely. We will continue to monitor the situation and determine the next appropriate steps based on advice from our medical team.”
KU clarified to the Journal-World that the suspension of “athletics events” would include practices. Kansas football’s spring practice was scheduled to begin March 17 and run through April 18.
The Big 12 Conference also announced Thursday that it had suspended all other conference championships until April 15 and that, beginning Friday, it had suspended all regular-season competitions, on- and off-campus recruiting and out-of-season practices until March 29.
“The suspension of these athletic-related activities does not include campus-based practices for in-season sports, strength and conditioning activities for all sports and does not apply to teams and individuals participating in NCAA Championship competition,” the Big 12 statement read.
In addition to calling off the men’s and women’s basketball championships, the upcoming gymnastics and equestrian championships have been canceled.
Future Big 12 championships this season will be evaluated by April 15, the conference said.
— Journal-World reporters Conner Mitchell and Benton Smith contributed to this report.