USC basketball’s appearance in the Pac-12 Tournament and the NCAA Tournament could be impacted by the coronavirus, but for now, games will go ahead as planned.
UPDATE 3/12: The Pac-12 has canceled its basketball tournament , along with the Big Ten, SEC, Big-12 and other conferences.
UPDATE: The NCAA has decided to hold the NCAA Tournament without fans and the Pac-12 has followed suit. Going forward, the public will not be present for the Pac-12 Tournament, including USC’s game against Arizona on Thursday afternoon.
On Tuesday, fears over coronavirus resulted in the cancelation, delay or changes to events across the country, including college basketball tournaments.
The Ivy League canceled its tournament entirely. The MAC and Big West opted to close their event to the public.
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As for the Pac-12, the conference has decided to hold the Pac-12 Tournament as scheduled. For now.
“While this is a fluid topic, the Pac-12 is currently planning to hold all scheduled Pac-12 championship events,” the conference said in a press release. “The Pac-12 will closely monitor updated recommendations from the CDC and state and local health authorities as it relates to hosting large events, and add appropriate safeguards in coordination with campuses, championship venues, and local health response teams to address COVID-19 concerns. The Pac-12 will, as always, take concerted steps to maintain the first-rate delivery of Pac-12 championship experiences for participating student-athletes, membership personnel, and fans.”
That means the Trojans will be traveling to Las Vegas this week to play in the tournament. With a first-round bye, they won’t take the court until Thursday. Instead of flying commercial, they will take a charter flight to Nevada, according to USC athletic department Chief of Staff Brandon Sosna.
As of Tuesday evening, the game they play against either Arizona or Washington on Thursday will be in front of fans, though the Pac-12 and the NCAA have left the door open for a change in protocol.
The Trojans won’t have the live support of the Spirit of Troy, however.
The Trojan Marching Band announced they will not be traveling to Las Vegas because of university travel restrictions.
“We will be sending victory vibes to @USC_Hoops from LA,” the band tweeted.
Additional changes for the tournament include media access. The locker rooms will be closed off to media, with interviews permitted only in designated areas outside.
Fans attending the tournament can expect extra cleaning protocols, including increased access to hand sanitizers throughout T-Mobile Arena.
Once the Pac-12 Tournament is over, USC could face potential disruption to its first NCAA Tournament in two years.
The governor of Ohio asked for indoor sporting events to be held with only athletes, parents and essential personnel. While the Trojans appear to have improved their standing enough to avoid the play-in games, the First Four is slated to be played in Dayton. First and Second Round games will also take place in Cleveland, which could impact the Trojans directly depending on what bracket USC lands in.
The NCAA announced on Tuesday evening that they are “consulting with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel…and will make decisions in the coming days,” when it comes to March Madness.
It seems possible the NCAA could decide to play the entire tournament without fans if more states opt to restrict large events.
For now, the Trojans will go ahead and put the distractions to the side while they look to make a run and win their first Pac-12 Tournament Championship since 2008.
UPDATE: USC announced they will not cancel athletic events, but will hold matches on campus without spectators until March 29.
As for away games, they will follow policies set by the NCAA, Pac-12 and other schools.
Since USC isn’t slated to play in a tournament like the NIT, which is held on home courts, the internal ruling is not likely to impact the Trojans for basketball. However, other sports like baseball and track will feel the effect.