Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
With about 30 seconds left before the national anthem, both coaches met at midcourt and shook hands, motioning for their teams to leave the floor. Then, the remainder of the Atlantic 10 tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus.
“You’ve got your gameface on, you’re locked in and then no game,” coach Mike Rhoades said. “It’s surreal.”
UMass left quickly, retreating back to their locker room. The Rams stayed on the floor, then a dunk contest between the five seniors broke out. Smiles and laughs were followed by tears within the senior class as their college careers ended.
Then, Rhoades had a plan. He brought the team over to the Peppas, who were playing near the black and gold’s tunnel. The team danced and sang along with the band’s “You Don’t Want to Go to War” song.
It characterized the sentiment that Rhoades gave after the win over George Washington on Feb. 29 — he was going to have the most fun of anyone the rest of the season. Rhoades said the team’s goal for the weekend was the same: have more fun than every other A-10 team.
“At the end there I think the guys just let it go a little bit and show some appreciation to the fans we had there and the band, we just wanted to say thank you,” Rhoades said.
The A-10 followed the example set by other conferences — Big 10, SEC and the American Athletic Conference — who canceled their tournaments moments before. A-10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade said the championship is a highlight of the season, and canceling it was a difficult decision.
“The welfare and the very cautionary decisionmaking to protect our student-athletes … is something that everybody across the country is doing right now,” McGlade said.
Thorr Bjorn, chair of the A-10 Athletic Directors, said the decision to cancel was a preventative one and not reactionary.
Thursday’s game was set to be played without the general public — only families of the student-athletes, working media and essential personnel were permitted.
Rhoades said after the game “there wasn’t a dry eye in the locker room.” He told the team basketball is more than a game, but also a family-like culture.
“I told them probably what my mom would say to me, ‘sometimes life is just not fair,’” Rhoades said. “You start forgetting about the games, but you don’t forget about the brothers you did this with and sweated with.”
Men’s basketball will graduate five seniors this year: guards Marcus Evans, De’Riante Jenkins, Malik Crowfield, and forwards Issac Vann and Mike’l Simms.