NCAA cancels tournament, ending Pilots' season

The women's basketball team had earned their first bid since 1997

By Kyle Garcia | March 12, 2020 7:16pm
Kate Andersen was the lone senior on the Pilots this year.
Media Credit: Molly Lowney / The Beacon

The NCAA canceled the upcoming 2020 men’s and women’s basketball tournament as well as all remaining winter and spring championships Thursday afternoon over concerns of the spreading of the novel coronavirus. It will be the first time since the tournament’s inception in 1939 that it has been canceled.

With the cancellation of the tournament, that means the University of Portland women’s basketball team will not get to compete in their first tournament since 1997. They end their season with a 21-11 record, their best season since 1998. The Pilots won the West Coast Conference tournament on Tuesday, upsetting the top-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs in the semifinals and second seed San Diego Toreros in the championship to claim the title.

"Today, NCAA president Mark Emmert and the board of governors canceled the Division I men's and women's 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships," the NCAA announced. "This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to the spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decision by other entities."

Portland head coach Michael Meek — who has now officially finished his first season as coach of the Pilots — said that he wasn’t too shocked by the NCAA’s decision given the last 48 hours.

Michael Meek finishes his first season as head coach of the Pilots with the best record since 1997 and a WCC championship title.
by Brennan Crowder / The Beacon

“I can’t say I was terribly surprised just from seeing everything else canceled,” Meek said. “Maybe it was a little bit surprising that it wasn’t postponed, but I don’t know enough about it … I’m not an expert on disease and I’m confident that people are making the right choices to keep our society safe.”

Meek noted that the team is feeling disappointed that the season has come to such an abrupt end, especially after an exhilarating Monday and Tuesday.

“I think they’re disappointed for no other reason than just having more chances to play together and be around each other,” Meek said. “I think everybody understands the circumstance and that the right thing is being done.”

While they’re obviously disappointed that they don’t get the chance to build on their magical run, the fact that the turnaround happened in the first place after being slated to finish last in the WCC is special in and of itself.

“We definitely talked about what a great opportunity to be able to leave our last game as the West Coast Conference champions,” Meek said. “Picked last, picked 10th in the league and coming out on top at the end was just an incredible story by just an incredible group of women that worked so hard together and about each other so much.”

The Pilots are young, with guard Kate Andersen being the only senior on the team. While this season may have been cut short, the future looks bright for Portland.

“We definitely have a lot back and a lot to look forward to for sure but obviously reflecting more on what an incredible season she had and what great memories this team created for one another,” Meek said.

The cancelation also affects the College World Series, Women’s College World Series, NCAA hockey championships, NCAA wrestling championships and more. The announcement comes one day after the NCAA decided to hold March Madness with no fans and on the same day that multiple conferences announced the cancellation of their conference tournaments.

The NCAA isn’t the only sports league to put a halt to their season. The NBA suspended its season on Wednesday after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the COVID-19. The MLS and NHL also suspended their seasons while the MLB has suspended spring training and delayed the start of their season.

Kyle Garcia is the Sports editor for The Beacon. He can be reached at