When the University of Hawaii men’s and women’s basketball teams hit the court in the Big West Conference Tournament this week in California, they will do so in an empty arena in a precaution to prevent a Coronavirus outbreak.
The BWC made the announcement via press release this afternoon, stating that all games played at both the Pyramid in Long Beach and the Honda Center in Anaheim will be played with no fans in attendance.
That decision follows the lead of many other international sporting events that bring a number of fans from different communities together.
All tournament games will be available for viewing via the ESPN family of networks, but will certainly come with an awkward silence.
According to basketball analysts, that will be a game changer.
“I think it’s such an unusual situation,” former longtime UH assistant coach Jackson Wheeler told KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello.
“The coaches will say, we’re going to prepare the same, we’re going to do the same, but there is a very different variable when it’s just you and them. It’s like a closed scrimmage in a lot of ways,” added Wheeler.
“I mean, I think about my whole coaching career, I’ve never, I’ve been in some places that had small crowds and the Big West there’s a lot of places that they play at that there’s not a lot of people there but just the atmosphere of going and sitting in the stands and no cheerleaders and no atmosphere. I definitely think it’s going to be unusual.”
On both the men’s and women’s side, a handful of teams are viewed as potential champs with tickets to NCAA Tournament on the line. A prospect that likely adds even more teams to the mix.
“This is a game changer for every team, and it depends on the make up of the team. There are a lot of teams that play and get energy from crowds. You get adrenaline. All of those things will be non existent,” said former UH player and longtime Spectrum Sports commentator Artie Wilson. “If the Big West Tournament was wide open prior to this, it’s even more wide open right now, because there’s nobody that walks in there with a great advantage.”
Wilson, added that it won’t just be the players that will have to get used to the situation as well.
“It would be interesting to be a broadcaster doing a game without crowd noise. I think that would be even more difficult than playing,” Wilson said with a chuckle. “You criticize a guy, I don’t know if this guy is ready to shoot the ball, he’ll look over and probably try to talk some trash to you now.”
The Rainbow Wahine will open in the quarterfinal round on Wednesday at 5:30pm HST against either Long Beach State, CSUN, or Cal Poly.
The Rainbow Warriors will begin tournament play on Thursday evening against UC Davis in the quarterfinals.