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Big Ten, Big 12, ACC all ban fans from conference tournaments

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March Madness 2020 continues to change due to coronavirus, as the Big Ten, ACC and Big 12 tournaments banned fans the COVID-19 outbreak.

While fans were allowed into the events for Wednesday night’s games, they will be barred from attending the remaining games in both league’s ongoing conference tournaments. The Pac-12 and SEC all played games on Wednesday night and have not yet provided an update on their status moving forward.

Big East commissioner Val Ackerman told reporters that the plan is for fans to be allowed to attend games moving forward — the arena was open to fans for Wednesday night’s games — but that they will evaluate moving forward, adding that she is waiting for input from the city of New York. A source told NBC Sports that the Atlantic 10 is holding a board of directors meeting on Wednesday night and that a decision on what they will be doing moving forward is expected tonight. The American has not yet started their conference tournament.

The ban begins with Thursday’s games. All three conferences allowed fans at the tournaments when they started. But earlier on Wednesday, the NCAA announced that fans wouldn’t be allowed in the 2020 NCAA tournament. It’s sparked a response from many of the nation’s top conferences in the midst of a chaotic postseason stretch.

For the Big Ten, it’s the start of a larger ongoing initiative that bans fans from all remaining winter and spring Big Ten sporting events.

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Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby confirmed the league’s decision to continue the tournament without fans during a press conference on Wednesday.

“Beginning with tomorrow’s tournament games, we will be implementing limited access, he said. “Teams will have access to 125 tickets. AD’s have decided that tickets will go to guest of student athletes.”

The ACC sent out their release late on Wednesday night.

“All games will be played with only essential tournament personnel, limited school administrators and student-athlete guests, broadcast television and credentialed media members present,” the statement read.

MORE ON THE CORONAVIRUS IMPACT ON MARCH MADNESS

The Ivy League already cancelled its conference tournament completely earlier this week. Teams like Chicago State have also cancelled road trips earlier this month. The Big Ten, ACC and Big 12 are just the latest conferences to make decisions based on public health.

“The main priority of the Big Ten Conference is to ensure the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, fans and media as we continue to monitor all relevant information on the COVID-19 virus on a daily basis,” the Big Ten said.

March Madness 2020 has certainly been turned upside down by coronavirus. Competing in buildings without fans is a new experience for one of America’s most popular sporting events. March Madness is associated with rowdy fanbases at conference tournaments and NCAA tournament games. That won’t be the case in 2020 with public health becoming a growing concern with coronavirus.

No. 1 Kansas claims outright Big 12 title with win over Texas Tech

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LUBBOCK, Texas — No. 1 Kansas had the outright Big 12 title wrapped up before going back on the court after halftime. The Jayhawks then finished off something that hadn’t been done in the conference in a decade.

Devon Dotson scored 17 points while Udoka Azubuike had 15 points and 11 rebounds as the Jayhawks beat Texas Tech 66-62 on Saturday. They became the Big 12’s first champion with only one loss in league play since they were 15-1 in 2009-10, two seasons before the conference expanded to an 18-game round-robin schedule.

“Everyone in the locker room, that was our goal, to win it outright and don’t share anything,” Dotson said. “For us to go 17-1 is big. Hopefully we can build off of it. We’re not satisfied. We have bigger goals and aspirations, but we can build off of this for sure.”

Kansas (28-3, 17-1 Big 12) had already clinched at least a share of its 19th Big 12 title, the 15th in 16 seasons, with a win Wednesday night over TCU. The Jayhawks were outright champions by halftime Saturday, when second-place and No. 4 Baylor (26-4, 15-3) lost 76-64 at West Virginia.

“I just want to say it’s a good conference,” Azubuike said. “In the Big 12 there are all these teams that are competing all the time. A lot of people really don’t know how hard it is with defense and everything. It’s tough.”

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Texas Tech (18-13, 9-9), last year’s national runner-up after sharing the Big 12 title with Kansas State, had a chance to tie the game with 2.8 seconds left. But Davide Moretti, who made a 3-pointer only seconds earlier, missed another one from long range. The Red Raiders guard fell to floor after contact with Marcus Garrett, but was no foul called.

“That’s the best Kansas team I’ve seen,” Tech coach Chris Beard said. “Dotson, the best guard in college basketball. Dok’s the best big in college basketball and Garrett is the best defender in college basketball, and their role players just don’t make mistakes.”

Ochai Agbaji added 12 points for the Jayhawks. Garrett had nine points and eight rebounds, including a driving layup in the final half-minute of the game.

Moretti had 18 points, while TJ Holyfield had 11 points for Texas Tech, which lost its fourth game in a row when trying to get back into the NCAA Tournament.

“I thought the guys played really hard,” Beard said. “We didn’t have any lapses of effort. … We have seven turnovers, 40-minute game against Kansas. That’s good. I thought the guys competed. They were dialed in. We didn’t get too high or too low. We were right there. We gave ourselves a chance.”

Azubuike put Kansas ahead to stay with his put-back dunk with 1:41 left that made it 59-57.

Holyfield’s 3-pointer tied the game with 2:11 left and came during a stretch of just more than two minutes when he and Azubuike were trading points. Both had a free throw, then both had layups before Holyfield’s 3 and Azubuike’s go-ahead putback.

HE SAID IT

“It’s just been a long grind and it’s been pretty well-documented kinda the not the ups and downs of our season because our season has been primarily all ups, but guys dealing with a lot of stuff. Coaches dealing with some stuff,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Keep focused. Stay disciplined. Stay responsible and to learn to grind. … Guys deserve all the credit.”

STREAKY SLUMPS

Kansas had a 32-24 lead after a 12-2 run over the final seven minutes of the first half, despite missing nine shots in a row. Tech missed nine of its last 10 shots. The Jayhawks then missed seven shots in a row early in the second half, allowing Texas Tech to tie the game at 37-all on Holyfield’s 3 with 14 minutes left.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas: The Jayhawks had never won 17 conference games in the same season. They had won 16 games three times (2002, 2012, 2017). Kansas finished 9-0 in Big 12 road games. They are a certain No. 1 seed, likely the top overall seed, in the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens in the Big 12 Tournament.

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders, who won a school-record 31 games last season, lost to unranked teams Oklahoma and Texas last week before falling in overtime at No. 4 Baylor and then at home to Kansas. Jahmi’us Ramsey has been their leading scorer as a freshman, though he had only six points in the regular-season finale. Tech has struggled to have an inside presence this season.

UP NEXT

The Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. The Jayhawks and Red Raiders both got first-round byes and will play Thursday against opponents to be determined.

West Virginia takes down No. 4 Baylor

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Emmitt Matthews ended a long slump to give West Virginia a much-needed boost heading into the postseason.

For No. 4 Baylor, Matthews’ re-emergence came at the worst possible time.

Matthews scored a season-high 18 points, freshman Oscar Tshiebwe had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and West Virginia used a big second-half run to beat Baylor 76-64 on Saturday.

Baylor (26-4, 15-3 Big 12) went more than eight minutes without a field goal midway through the second half to take itself out of contention for the league championship. The title went to top-ranked Kansas, which beat Texas Tech 66-62 later Saturday.

“This really hurts,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “I don’t think another team in the Big 12 has lost a conference championship with 15 wins. We did what you normally would do when you win a conference championship and we don’t have anything to show for it. It sucks.”

Instead, it was West Virginia (21-10, 9-9) celebrating. The sellout crowd stormed the court after the Mountaineers’ second consecutive win and just the third in nine games.

Matthews had scored in double figures just once in his previous 20 games. A season-long starter, the 6-foot-7 sophomore entered Saturday’s play averaging 5.9 points per game and with twice as many turnovers as assists.

“This is really the work, putting in all of the time that I’ve put in,” Matthews said. “My slump was a little longer, it was a prolonged slump, something I had never seen before for myself. Things are clicking at the right time.”

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West Virginia looked as if it were headed for more disappointment against a ranked team when Matthews’ dunk attempt was blocked and Baylor’s Devonte Bandoo made a basket at the other end to put the Bears ahead 37-30 with 13:40 remaining. But Matthews kept going to the rim, dunking twice to ignite the crowd and his teammates.

“I just wanted to make the right plays. That’s all it was,” Matthews said. “I haven’t been dunking the ball lately, and I miss dunking on people. I want to get back to that, from here on to the national championship.”

Tshiebwe and Jermaine Haley scored six points apiece during the decisive 21-5 burst that put West Virginia ahead 57-46 with 3:02 remaining.

Baylor got 3-pointers from Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell to give the Bears some hope. But West Virginia, the league’s worst free-throw shooting team, made 16 of 19 from the line over the final two minutes to seal it.

Miles McBride added 12 points for West Virginia and Sean McNeal scored 11. Butler led Baylor with 21 points and Mitchell added 15.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said he hadn’t been as tough on his players this season as he normally would be because he likes this group so much. That changed in practice on Thursday and Huggins saw positive results from the Big 12’s youngest team.

“We had two of the best practices we’ve had in a very, very long time,” Huggins said. “They were enthusiastic. They had bounce in their step.”

That energy transferred to Saturday’s game. Just not right away.

West Virginia missed its first eight shots, and Huggins ripped into his players during an early timeout. The Mountaineers responded with a 19-2 run, with Matthews scoring eight. to put West Virginia ahead 19-11.

The momentum quickly changed after a Baylor player stepped on the end line retrieving an errant pass at the opposite end of the court outside of the referees’ view. With the sellout crowd screaming in protest, MaCio Teague then made a three-point play and another basket 40 seconds later to pull the Bears to within 24-22 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Baylor: Despite losing three of their last five games, the Bears finished with their best regular-season record in school history. Against the Mountaineers, Baylor was outrebounded 42-28, got into foul trouble and was outscored 24-10 at the line.

“From this game, we’ve seen some weaknesses that we have,” said Baylor’s Mark Vital. “They exposed them, Coach Drew will fix them for us. We’ll get back on the run.”

West Virginia: The Mountaineers will take some momentum into the league tournament after going 3-6 in February.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Baylor could fall out of the top five in the AP Top 25 poll for the first time in 10 weeks. West Virginia could re-enter the rankings after dropping out this past week.

SENIOR PROPOSAL

A pregame ceremony marked the final home game for West Virginia seniors Haley, Chase Harler and Logan Routt. Harler then got down on his knee on the court and asked his girlfriend, Lindsey Baker, to marry him. She said yes.

UP NEXT

The league tournament starts Wednesday in Kansas City.

Top of AP poll steady as Baylor, Kansas set collision course

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A new college basketball AP Poll has been released, and Baylor and Kansas just keep winning, setting up a monumental showdown Saturday between the top-ranked Bears and No. 3 Jayhawks that could help decide not only the Big 12 title but the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA Tournament.

The two teams were separated once again by Gonzaga in the latest college basketball poll from The Associated Press on Monday. The Bears (23-1) had 48 first-place votes from the 63-member media panel, while the Bulldogs (26-1) had 14 first-place nods and the Jayhawks (22-3) had the only remaining first-place vote.

Dave Ommen’s latest bracketology can be found here. Rob Dauster’s Bubble Watch can be found here. The full NET rankings can be found here.

“The best we could be right now is being the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament. We’re No. 2,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, whose team beat West Virginia and Oklahoma last week. “The reason we’re not No. 1 is Baylor beat us on our home floor. They deserve it. I’m not looking at it like we haven’t done as well as our record because we’re in second place. I’m looking at it like we played pretty good that day and got beat by a better team, and now we have a chance to get them back.”

The Bears and Jayhawks both have business to handle before they collide on Saturday, though. Kansas got a visit from Iowa State to Allen Fieldhouse on Monday night while Baylor will be visiting Oklahoma on Tuesday night.

If both win, it would set up one of the biggest games in the history of the Ferrell Center.

“I think it’s a tribute to the players, their belief,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “We’ve been operating under joy … (and) focusing one game at a time and we’ll keep doing that.”

San Diego State (26-0) remained the nation’s last unbeaten team and was No. 4 in the latest poll, while Dayton (23-2) climbed one spot to fifth after wins over Rhode Island and Massachusetts and a rough week for then-No. 5 Louisville.

“I told our team, `Let’s get greedy. Let’s play for perfection,”‘ Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said. “If we’re this close, we might as well play for a perfect regular season. … Let’s do something special.”

That’s exactly what the Flyers are trying to do, too.

“We’re trying to win a national championship,” Dayton guard Jalen Crutcher said. “We feel like that there’s no team in the country we can’t beat. We feel like we can go and win a national championship, and we talk about that a lot.”

The Cardinals lost to Georgia Tech and Clemson to plummet all the way to No. 11, but they weren’t the only ranked team to lose to an unranked foe on Saturday. Auburn fell at Missouri, Seton Hall lost to Providence, Butler lost at Georgetown, Illinois lost at Rutgers, Houston fell at SMU, Texas Tech fell at Oklahoma State and LSU was beaten on the road by Alabama.

Throw in then-No. 14 West Virginia’s loss to Baylor and nine ranked teams were beaten. Eight lost to unranked opponents, the most in a single day this season.

“This week wasn’t a good week for us,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said. “The teams we’re playing are too together and we’re not right now. It’s unfortunate, but it happens sometimes and my job is to keep our team on course and get better.”

The Penn State Nittany Lions moved up into the No. 9 spot, tying the school’s highest ranking ever in the AP Poll era.

Here is the full college basketball AP Poll:

1. Baylor
2. Gonzaga
3. Kansas
4. San Diego State
5. Dayton
6. Duke
7. Maryland
8. Florida State
9. Penn State
10. Kentucky
11. Louisville
12. Villanova
13. Auburn
14. Oregon
15. Creighton
16. Seton Hall
17. West Virginia
18. Colorado
19. Marquette
20. Iowa
21. Butler
22. Houston
23. BYU
24. Arizona
25. Ohio State

Others receiving votes: Texas Tech 92, Michigan State 87, Michigan 83, LSU 55, Rhode Island 39, Virginia 32, Cincinnati 14, Stephen F. Austin 14, Illinois 12, Northern Iowa 9, Utah State 8, Rutgers 6, Florida 6, East Tennessee State 5, Saint Mary’s 4, Tulsa 3, Richmond 3, SMU 2, New Mexico State 2, Wright State 1, Arizona State 1

More AP college basketball: http://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

Texas Tech secures massive win over No. 12 West Virginia

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Texas Tech secured a massive win for its NCAA tournament profile on Wednesday night.

The Red Raiders helped their postseason situation immensely with an impressive 89-81 Big 12 home win over No. 12 West Virginia.

Facing the No. 1 defense in the country, Texas Tech’s offense had no issues shredding the Mountaineer defense. Shooting 54 percent from the floor and 64 percent from three-point range, the Red Raiders used a balanced offensive effort to counter the waves of bodies West Virginia throws at you on defense.

Davide Moretti (25 points), Terrence Shannon Jr. (23 points) and Jahmius Ramsey (21 points) all scored at least 20 points for Texas Tech. Although Texas Tech’s offense struggled with 22 turnovers — a common issue when facing West Virginia — they also had 17 assists and did a great job of spreading the ball around.

But for as good as this win was from a confidence-building perspective, this win is most important for Texas Tech’s NCAA tournament resume.

The national runner-ups from last season weren’t exactly in danger of missing the NCAA tournament given their current stature. The lack of Q1 wins, however, was starting to become a concern for Texas Tech.

The Red Raiders were 1-7 against Q1 opponents entering Wednesday night. And with only three total Q2/Q3 wins, the next two tiers weren’t looking promising either. That was part of the reason Texas Tech’s overtime home loss to Kentucky on Saturday was so crushing. It was a chance to gain a credible win that slipped away.

Now that Texas Tech knocked off West Virginia, they get a lot more breathing room. The Red Raiders are still lacking an ideal number of elite victories. They’ve also done a good job of avoiding landmine losses that might derail them. All seven of Texas Tech’s losses have come against Q1 teams.

With Texas Tech finally gaining a second Q1 win, with another shot at one against Kansas coming later this week, things are looking a lot more stable in Lubbock.

Kansas, Kansas State both taking blame for massive fight

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The Sunflower Showdown took a wild turn on Tuesday night. And there’s not a clear indication of what’ll happen next.

No. 3 Kansas and Kansas State ended their bitter showdown with a wild melee in the disabled seating behind the Wildcats’ basket that included punches, shoving and at least one player threatening to swing a stool.

The Jayhawks were dribbling out the time on their 81-60 victory when Silvio De Sousa was stripped by DaJuan Gordon near mid-court. Gordon tried to go for a layup and De Sousa recovered to block his shot and send the freshman sprawling, then stood over Gordon and barked at him — triggering both benches to empty into what amounted to a rugby scrum.

At one point, De Sousa picked up a stool and held it over his head before Kansas assistant Jerrance Howard grabbed it from him from behind. The Jayhawks’ Marcus Garrett and David McCormick were also in the thick of the scrum along with the Wildcats’ James Love and David Sloan, who was the first player to come to Gordon’s defense.

It took both coaching staffs, the officials and Allen Fieldhouse security to separate the teams.

“Without knowing exactly everything that went down, it was obvious to me that we played a role in what transpired and there will be penalties for that,” said Jayhawks coach Bill Self, who was already shaking hands with Kansas State counterpart Bruce Weber when the chaos erupted. “I need to see the film to comment or have any definitive thoughts on exactly why or how it got started, because to be honest with you I don’t have any idea about that.”

This fight became a national event

The fight came three days after St. Francis and Sacred Heart were involved in a wild fracas following their game in Pennsylvania. But while that incident in the Northeast Conference went largely unnoticed, the pedigree of Kansas and the fact that both schools play in the Big 12 instantly turned their brawl into a national event.

Obviously it’s an embarrassment,” Self said. “It’s not something to be proud of. What happened showed zero signs of toughness. It’s a sign of immaturity and selfishness more so than toughness. If I was a fan watching, depending on your perspective, there would be nothing about that intriguing me to watch more.”

Then, adding to the bizarre finish, five players from each team were summoned back from the locker rooms by officials and one-tenth of a second was put on the clock. Kansas State shot technical free throws to booing from a few thousand fans, and the one make necessitated a change to the final box score.

The reason only those players returned? The rest of the players from each team — including those dressed in street clothes — were ejected because they had left the bench while the game was in progress.

“It should have been avoided,” Weber said. “It’s my guys, it’s my fault. They came here wanting to have a game, compete, and we didn’t compete the way we needed to, and probably a little frustration, especially the young guys.”

Weber had instructed his players to back off in the closing seconds and let the game run out. And while Self said he didn’t agree with the steal and layup attempt, he did acknowledge that Kansas State was merely playing to the final whistle.

“Silvio knew he was being defended,” Self said. “He took his ball, and certainly the way Silvio reacted to getting his ball taken, going and blocking his shot, that’s fair game. What transpired after that is what set everything off.”

What punishments are coming?

While he won’t be alone, De Sousa is likely to receive the stiffest punishment from the incident — the latest chapter in a career that has brought far more embarrassment and frustration to Kansas than pride and success.

It was De Sousa whose name surfaced in the FBI probe into college basketball in October 2018, and that in part led to an NCAA investigation of Kansas. The school received a notice of allegations last September that outlined major violations in men’s basketball, levied a head coach responsibility charge against Self and alleged a lack of institutional control. Those violations are being appealed and a decision is not expected until well after the season.

De Sousa was suspended last season for his role in the case, and he was supposed to sit out this season as well. But the school successfully appealed the decision, allowing the junior forward to return to the court.

Asked what his message was in the locker room after the game, Self replied: “There was no discussion on what happened from their vantage point. We talked to them and relayed to them how selfish it was. We relayed how disappointed we are. We should be in here talking about Christian Braun and selfishness created a situation where that’s not going to be the story line whatsoever. There was no communication back and forth. It was one way.”

Indeed, Braun was the story of the game until the final seconds after hitting six 3-pointers and scoring a career-high 20 points in his first Sunflower Showdown. The freshman guard grew up in nearby Burlington, Kansas.

Devon Dotson added 18 points and Udoka Azubuike finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds for Kansas (15-3, 5-1 Big 12), which beat the Wildcats for the 14th straight time at Allen Fieldhouse. Xavier Sneed had 16 points and David Sloan had 14 for the Wildcats (8-10, 1-5), who played a part in ending the Jayhawks’ conference title run last season.

“Credit to them. They kicked our butt,” said Weber, whose chin was reddened by what he called a stress-induced reaction. “I’m just happy nothing major happened to either team where there was an escalated fight. It was a bad play at the end. It’s disappointing. Life lessons for our young guys and hopefully next time they’ll be a little smarter.”