Virginia seniors Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key walked off the John Paul Jones Arena floor last Saturday after beating Louisville on Senior Day. The Cavaliers had won their eighth consecutive game and entered the ACC Tournament riding high.
The game against the Cardinals turned out to be much more than just the final home game of their careers. It turned out it was the end of Virginia’s season.
“Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships,” the NCAA said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.
As COVID-19, the disease caused by a novel coronavirus, continues to spread across the nation and world, the NCAA deemed the drastic measures necessary.
“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the statement said.
The NCAA’s decision makes it impossible for the Virginia men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse teams to defend their national championships this season. Both squads were ranked within their respective top-25 polls this week.
The 2019-20 college sports season is effectively over.
Earlier Thursday, UVa announced the suspension of all athletic related activity. The ACC announced the same suspension for all conference members minutes before UVa.
“We understand this is unusual and unprecedented; however, these are extremely unusual times,” Virginia athletics director Carla Williams said in a statement. “These decisions will be reviewed on a daily basis as circumstances change. This is not ideal for anyone, but the goal is to preserve and protect the health and safety of as many people in our Athletics family and beyond as possible.”
Multiple professional sports leagues, including the NBA, also have announced that they have suspended play for the time being.
A few days ago, Virginia men’s basketball players were hopeful to compete in the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament days later. Key discussed his goal of winning the whole thing. He felt confident in how the Cavaliers were playing.
With the NCAA’s decision to help slow the spread of COVID-19, Key and the Wahoos won’t take the floor again this season.
“This is uncharted territory,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said, “and the health and safety of our student-athletes and institutions remains our top priority.”