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Coronavirus concerns cause MAC, Atlantic 10, MAAC to evaluate tournament plans

The Mid-American Conference prepares for the start of its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments on Monday. But MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said that in the last few weeks league officials have also been keeping track of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Mid-American Conference is monitoring the threat of coronavirus but the conference doesn’t anticipate that it will make any major changes to its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

The MAC tournament begins Monday with first-round games at campus sites, then moves to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, when the women’s quarterfinals begin Wednesday. The men’s quarterfinals begin Thursday. Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse and the MAC will also host first-and second-round NCAA Tournament games March 20 and 22.

“We’ve been working, collaboratively, with the Cleveland Cavaliers, with Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, and we’re in conversations with the CDC, the Cleveland Clinic and city, county and state health officials about this, and we are monitoring the situation,” Steinbrecher told The News on Wednesday.

“We’re paying attention, and we’re in a monitor situation. There’s no action to be taken at the time, but we’re doing the responsible thing, staying abreast of this and continuing to gather information.”

The Atlantic 10 Conference is already taking one precautionary measure for its men's and women's tournaments, by banning handshakes as a means to limit the potential transmission of coronavirus. Instead, the Atlantic 10 is recommending forearm bumps in lieu of pregame or postgame handshakes.

"The A-10 will continue to update its members throughout championship season and reminds student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans to be diligent in following the recommended health and safety precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” the conference said in a release.

The Atlantic 10 will also have sanitizing gel on hand for athletes, and will have “appropriate security to limit access by nonessential personnel.”

Rich Ensor, the commissioner of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, told News 12 New Jersey that conference officials are monitoring the situation in advance of the tournament, which begins Tuesday in Atlantic City, N.J.

“I think we’re probably OK for next week,” Ensor said. “Two weeks from now in Albany with the NCAA (Tournament). Do I know? I don’t really know.”

Ensor also told the Times Union in Albany that he doesn’t anticipate any changes when the MAAC, Siena College host NCAA Tournament first- and second-round games March 19 and 21 at the Times Union Center in Albany.

CBS Sports reported that the NCAA formed an advisory panel in response to the coronavirus threat but has not formally issued any recommendations. One team has already taken what some would consider an extreme measure; Chicago State of the Western Athletic Conference will not take trips to Seattle University in Washington or to Utah Valley University because of the threat of coronavirus.

Chicago State is also evaluating whether to play in the WAC Tournament next week in Las Vegas.

Whitesell in line for bonus

UB is in position to earn 20 wins for the fifth time in the last six seasons.

If UB wins Friday at Bowling Green, Whitesell is in position to earn a bonus of $10,000 if the Bulls win their 20th regular-season game, as stated in his contract, obtained by The News through a Freedom of Information Law request.

Tough times for Oats, Alabama

After four seasons and three NCAA Tournament berths as head coach at UB, Alabama coach Nate Oats isn’t having the same kind of success in his first year at the helm of the Crimson Tide.

Vanderbilt defeated Alabama 87-79 on Tuesday in Tuscaloosa, Ala., which Oats told reporters after the game all but wiped out the Tide’s hopes of being an at-large team in the NCAA Tournament. While the Crimson Tide (16-14, 8-9 Southeastern Conference) is 50th in the latest NET rankings, Alabama is currently ninth in the 14-team SEC, and closes the regular season Saturday at Missouri. The SEC Tournament begins Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

Oats didn’t hold back when discussing what he believed was his team’s lack of effort against the Commodores.

“We’re gonna have to get everybody who’s on the team in the games to give us everything they have for these next whatever it is – two, three, four, however many games [there are left],” Oats told reporters, via AL.com.

“You’re really gonna find out the character of some of these guys on the team,” he continued. "Do you want to keep playing? Do you love basketball that much? Does it mean enough to you to give us your best effort every time you step on the floor? Are you coachable? That’s what we’re looking for."

Bona honors Ikpeze as lone senior

The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team honored Amadi Ikpeze, its lone senior on this year’s team, prior to its game Wednesday against Saint Joseph’s at the Reilly Center.

His final game at Bonaventure moved him into sixth all-time in games played for the Bonnies, at 119. Ikpeze, a Amherst High graduate, entered Wednesday averaging 3.7 points and 3.4 rebounds for Bona.

Must-see game of the week

Niagara at Canisius, 7 p.m. Friday, Koessler Athletic Center: The Purple Eagles and the Golden Griffins conclude the Battle of the Bridge series in men’s basketball, and Niagara has been on a tear as of late. Niagara entered the week tied for fifth in the MAAC with Iona, and currently holds a tiebreaker  by virtue of its season sweep of the Gaels. The top five seeds in the MAAC earn first-round byes in the conference tournament.

Prior to Wednesday’s game at Siena, the Purple Eagles (11-19, 9-10 MAAC) have notched wins against a pair of first-place teams (Siena and Saint Peter’s) and they completed a sweep of Iona, which has won the last four MAAC Tournament championships.

Canisius, meanwhile, is playing to stay out of the cellar of the MAAC. The Griffs (11-19, 6-13) are in 10th in the 11-team MAAC after an 85-69 win Wednesday at Marist (7-22, 6-14).

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