Coronavirus has swept across the globe and has affected the sports world this week.
First, the Ivy League decided to cancel the league’s upcoming basketball tournaments and quickly followed by canceling all spring sports for the 2020 season.
That was just a precursor of things to happen.
On Wednesday afternoon, the NCAA announced the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be held as scheduled at all venues next week, but without fans present.
Later Wednesday night, the NBA suspended its season until further notice after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus.
And the MLS, NHL and MLB have quickly followed suit by suspending their operations for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus.
How will this affect the Lady Bears?
With the No. 19 nationally-ranked Missouri State Lady Bears bound for the NCAA Tournament, they’re going to have to play in front of no fans.
Head coach Amaka “Mox” Agugua-Hamilton said the Lady Bears are taking precautions, using proper hygiene and listening to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with advice from the university and administration.
“It is pretty scary, but at the same time, I don’t want our players to be freaked out,” Mox said. “We have to make sure we are taking care of ourselves and take care of each other and wait and see pertaining to basketball what’s going to happen.”
The NCAA made their announcement after Mox spoke with the media on Wednesday. NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement the decision was made after consulting with public health officials in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus, which has infected hundreds of people across the U.S.
Attendance at games will be limited to essential staff and family members.
“While I understand how disappointing this is for all of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the U.S,” Emmert said in the statement. “This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes.”
Mox said if it’s safe for the student-athletes to play - she would like to play. But if the players are put in danger, those individuals are her biggest concern as well as everyone in the program.
“If it’s a safe environment where we can’t play with fans, then I’d rather that, of course, than cancel the games and cancel what you’ve tried so hard to get to,” Mox said. “I want it to be a safe environment for everyone.”
Mox said playing in front of no crowds would be a different feeling. She likened it to playing in a close scrimmage.
“When you coach scrimmages against other teams, it’s so awkward because it’s like a game with no fans,” Mox said. “If there are no fans, it would be awkward. It would be a situation we would have to create our own energy and not rely on the fans at all or the atmosphere.
“We haven’t been in a situation like that, but most teams haven’t. Everybody is going to be in the same vote.”
No. 7 Stanford is expected to be one of the selected host schools in the tournament as a Top 16 seed. The university is still willing to host the women’s basketball tournament, but with a strict limit on fans if selected on Monday.
The California university said Wednesday that all sporting events on campus will be closed to the public through May 15 or until further notice in response to the coronavirus.
Only participants, coaches, working staff, officials, credentialed media and a very limited number of family members, friends and guests will be allowed to attend.
Mox said she hopes the Lady Bears and other teams aren’t sent to schools like Stanford - an area that has been significantly impacted by the coronavirus. She also said she thinks games should be moved out of those areas to other schools that haven’t been impacted as much.
The Associated Press reports that the NCAA is attempting to move the Final Four out of Mercedes-Benz Arena, which houses the Atlanta Falcons, and into a smaller venue.
According to AP’s Ralph Russo, regional sites could also be moved from the scheduled arenas to smaller venues in same cities, but the plan is to keep the first round as is.
Missouri State has been preparing to host NCAA Tournament games because of the Lady Bears’ success this season. The Lady Bears are just outside of being a host school, according to several bracketologists.
“Even if it’s not moved here, I’d hope they move it out of a state that is dealing with it,” Mox said. “I think people are ready and they can move it somewhere else that hasn’t been touched with the virus. I hope you don’t have to travel to those states who are really struggling with it now.”
The Lady Bears traveled to Moline, Illinois for the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament on Wednesday night. However, the MVC announced the tournament was canceled on Thursday due to the coronavirus.
Missouri State will now wait for Monday’s NCAA Tournament Selection Show to see when and where they will be playing - if the tournament is still going to happen.
With all that, Mox is just focused on getting her team to take preventive measures and have their sights set on cutting down more nets.
“We’ll just roll with the punches,” Mox said. “You just have to continue to play your game and stay focused because you’re fighting for a championship.”