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Sun Belt Conference cancels basketball tournaments due to coronavirus concerns

The Texas State University men's basketball team had made it to the semifinal round and was seeking to punch its spot in the NCAA Tournament.

AUSTIN, Texas — In response to coronavirus concerns, the Sun Belt Conference has decided to cancel the remainder of its men's and women's basketball tournaments.

The decision came just more than an hour after officials had decided to limit attendance to student-athletes, coaches, critical staff and credentialed media.

"After further discussion with the Presidents and Chancellors and Directors of Athletics and mounting concerns surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Sun Belt Conference has decided to cancel the remaining games of the 2020 Sun Belt Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships scheduled for March 14-15 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans," the league said in a statement.

The cancellation comes at an inopportune time for a Bobcats team that needed to win the conference tournament in order to punch its ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

Led by Sun Belt Player of the Year Nijal Pearson, Texas State defeated Appalachian State on Wednesday and was preparing to depart for New Orleans late Friday night for its semifinal matchup against South Alabama.

The announcement comes after NCAA President Mark Emmert said Wednesday that the national men's and women's basketball tournaments will be played with "only essential staff and limited family attendance."

"While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States," the NCAA president said. "Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed."

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The Sun Belt's announcement follows a wave of others on Thursday, as 13 other conferences have decided to cancel their postseason tournaments and professional sports leagues such as the NBA, NHL, MLS, and likely soon the MLB, have opted to suspend operations.

The NCAA Tournament, as of Thursday afternoon, is still scheduled to take place next week.

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