On March 11, the basketball world took an unsuspected turn when the NBA called off a game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Utah Jazz because of, “unforeseen circumstances.”
When more information was released, it was found that a player had tested positive for the Coronavirus. The NBA then took the drastic step of announcing they would suspend the season.
The next day, the NCAA announced they were cancelling the men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments. The entire basketball world was tossed upside down; the UWGB men’s and women’s basketball teams were adversely affected as well.
The Women were Hot
The UWGB women’s team just wrapped up a successful Horizon League Tournament after being defeated by the #1 Seed – IUPUI – in the Championship Game only two days before March Madness was cancelled. At the end of the season, they sat at 19 wins and 13 losses, but were on a hot streak winning seven out of their last eight games. Green Bay was set to go to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. The seniors were looking forward to one last tournament go around before the devastating news came in.
This tournament was created in 1994 as a preseason tournament that teams would go to prior to starting conference play but expanded to a postseason tournament as well in 1998. Currently, 64 teams make it to the WNIT with hopes of experiencing the magic of March and creating some final memories.
The Phoenix would’ve expected a four-or-five seed in the tournament with hopes of hosting a game or two – as the better seeds do rather than going to a predetermined location. Had Green Bay have won their championship game against the IUPUI Jaguars, the Phoenix would receive an automatic NCAA tournament bid and potentially, had a very tough first round matchup with their 13-or-14 seed – potentially going up against a top 25 team. It would’ve taken a herculean effort to defeat one of the women’s college basketball powerhouses, but that’s the reason they call it March Madness.
The Men were Hot, too
Falling to the eventual champion of the Horizon League Tournament is nothing to be ashamed of if you’re the Green Bay men’s basketball team. They were defeated 80-69, but battled for the entire game before finally running out of steam against a very tough, #2 seed in Northern Kentucky. The Phoenix won eight-out-of-their-last-11 games and were playing some of their best basketball of the season. The players, coaches and media were all optimistic about one final ride before the end of the season. They were eyeing up the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.
This bid was not as set in stone as the Green Bay women’s team going to the WNIT, but the conversation was picking up steam before the COVID news hit. Only two teams (Tennessee State and Youngstown State) were formally accepted into the tournament before the news came in that it, like every other basketball tournament, would be cancelled.
The CIT is a single-elimination tournament set to tip off March 16 with all games aired on ESPN3 and ESPN+. The CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament originated in 2009 and was an alternative option for those teams not selected to the NCAA or NIT tournaments. Last year, the field consisted of 26 teams and interestingly enough, Green Bay was the runner-up eventually losing to Marshall in the Championship.
This year, The Phoenix probably would’ve been a middle-of-the-pack seed as they had a solid record. They would have been looking for that same success as last year – but this time taking it all. Had Green Bay have beaten the Northern Kentucky Norse and the UIC Flames in the Championship, they would’ve more than likely been a 15-or-16 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Phoenix possessed the high-caliber players that could have shocked the world and busted some brackets along the way.
With all that is going on now, the Phoenix now have plenty of free time to think about what could’ve been. The buzzer beaters; the Cinderella Stories; the tears of sadness, and joy; The Magic in the air.
March is a special time of the year for sports fans, but we all know now to do our part and stay home while this virus passes. Nobody knows for sure when the sports world will be back to normal, but one thing we know for sure: We already can’t wait for next year’s March Madness.
Written by Jacob Lenzendorf
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