The NCAA's decision Thursday to cancel the upcoming men's and women's Division I basketball tournament (see story) amidst growing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic was historic, and cut short seasons — and, in some cases, careers — for local college hoops programs.
Perhaps most prominently, Villanova's men's basketball team, which just days ago was gearing up to compete in the Big East tournament, will not repeat as Big East champion, nor will the Wildcats pursue their third national title in five years.
Head coach Jay Wright addressed reporters Thursday afternoon, and reacted on camera to the news as he learned about it, which made for a tough and emotional scene for Wright:
Here is Jay Wright’s reaction to just finding out news NCAA tournament is cancelled— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) March 12, 2020
“Wow. Wow. This is so historical”
“It’s sad for them (his players).
This is a big issue in our country.
It’s a serious issue.”
“I think it’s the right thing to do”
More with Jay next NBC10 pic.twitter.com/voNRU02ODw
Wright later shared the following message on Twitter:
So sad that we can’t enjoy March Madness with the Nova Nation . Thank you for your passion , loyalty and support . Let’s all pray for those affected by the virus and for the health services personnel treating patients .— Jay Wright (@VUCoachJWright) March 12, 2020
And Villanova isn't the only local program impacted by the abrupt ending to the 2019-20 seasons.
Drexel women's basketball head coach Denise Dillon was fully prepared to coach her team Thursday afternoon in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. The Dragons were the top-seeded team in the tournament, poised to make a run at the program's second-ever NCAA tournament appearance, and its first since 2009.
Then, just before tip-off against UNC-Wilmington, the game — and tournament — was canceled.
Here's how Dillon said the scene played out, per the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Four minutes left on the clock before the game, a guy came by, said, 'Coach, get your team off the court.' Knowing this was eventually going to happen, it was still a shock. I walked past the refs. They were high fiving, ready to go. I said, 'No, we're done.'
The Inquirer also spoke with legendary Jefferson head coach Herb Magee, whose Rams went 27-4 this year and were set to face Stonehill in the NCAA Division II men's basketball tournament on March 14.
Here's what Magee told his players, per the Inquirer:
The only thing I could tell them, that their season is over. (He told his players) that they had a great year and I am proud of them.
Former St. Joe's head coach and current Michigan assistant Phil Martelli chimed in on the cancellation Thursday night:
Thinking of all the student athletes impacted by today’s news - please pull those closest to you closer than ever before - you are not alone— Phil Martelli (@PhilMartelli) March 13, 2020
Whether the NCAA will give extra years of eligibility to players whose seasons were cut short, and whether the NCAA hopes to reschedule the respective tournaments for later in the year, is currently unclear.
Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.