It’s often said that sports never stop. That wasn’t the case during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, as sports fans know all too well.
Here’s a look at some of the sports events that shaped the first year of the ongoing pandemic on and off Bradley’s campus.
March 8, 2020: Bradley men’s basketball wins Missouri Valley Conference championship
After dispatching Southern Illinois and Drake in the first two rounds of Arch Madness, Bradley defeated Valparaiso 80-66 in the MVC tournament championship to clinch an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year. It was the first time ever that the program had captured back-to-back tournament titles.
Senior guard Darrell Brown was named the tournament’s most outstanding player after exiting the floor to booming “MVP” chants from a large Bradley crowd in the stands.
March 11, 2020: Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tests positive for coronavirus, NBA suspends season
The NBA became the first professional sports league to suspend play after the Jazz star tested positive for COVID-19. Just days earlier, Gobert had poked fun at COVID-19 safety measures by going out of his way to touch the reporters’ recording devices following a press conference.
Morning of March 12, 2020: MVC cancels women’s basketball tournament, suspends all athletic events until March 30
After the cancelation of all of the men’s Power Five conference tournaments, the MVC canceled its women’s basketball tournament, which was set to begin that evening.
After the most successful regular season in program history, Bradley was set to enter the tournament as the No. 3 seed. The Braves roster was led by senior center Chelsea Brackmann, who battled ulcerative colitis but still played the majority of the team’s regular season games.
The squad was in a good position to receive an at-large bid to the WNIT [Women’s National Invitation Tournament] for the first time ever. Bradley finished the season with a record of 22-7 (13-5 in MVC play).
“We had a WNIT berth, which women’s basketball has never even done … at Bradley,” head coach Andrea Gorski said. “That and the chance to play for the NCAA Tournament … was really important to us, to really make history in that in the postseason realm.”
Afternoon of March 12, 2020: NCAA cancels the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments
After announcing earlier that week that the tournaments would be held without fan attendance, the NCAA canceled its annual March Madness tournaments, marking the end of the season for Bradley men’s basketball.
The cancelation would also mark the end of the careers of the three seniors on the Braves’ roster: Brown, Koch Bar and Nate Kennell.
“It’s funny; you tell your guys, ‘Seize the moment, make the most of every opportunity, you don’t know when that opportunity is going to be presented again,’” Bradley head coach Brian Wardle said. “It’s life lessons here. I think this year will always be remembered … for Bradley basketball, as a special year, but obviously as a year [with] no NCAA Tournament.”
The men’s tournament had been played every year since its creation in 1939.
March 13, 2020: MVC cancels remainder of spring sports competition
A day after suspending all competition through March 30, the conference completely called off all competition through the end of the academic year.
Bradley’s baseball, softball, tennis, men’s and women’s golf, and men’s and women’s outdoor track seasons would go unfinished.
Aug. 14, 2020: MVC postpones all fall sports
After a summer of uncertainty, the conference announced that all fall sports would be postponed, including all of Bradley’s fall sports — men’s and women’s cross country, volleyball and soccer.
Nov. 25, 2020: Men’s and women’s basketball return to action
For the first time since March 10, 2020, a Bradley team was in action, as both the men’s and women’s basketball teams returned to the court in a victorious fashion.
The men defeated Toledo 61-59 on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by junior guard Terry Nolan.
The women took down UMKC 84-70 to open the season in grand fashion, behind 22 points from junior Lasha Petree and 19 from senior Gabi Haack.
Dec. 30, 2020: Men’s basketball pauses due to COVID-19
After playing its first nine games of the season as scheduled, Bradley’s men’s basketball team was forced to pause due to a positive COVID-19 test within its tier-one personnel, which includes players, coaches and managers.
The team would have to postpone its first four games of conference play.
March 13, 2021: Women’s basketball receives positive COVID-19 test at MVC tournament
After defeating Northern Iowa 62-59 in the tournament quarterfinals, a member of the team’s tier-one personnel tested positive for COVID-19, sparking a hectic Saturday at the Hoops in the Heartland tournament.
Despite the positive test, which Gorski later clarified was not from a player or coach, the MVC wanted Bradley to play its semifinal game against Missouri State that afternoon. Missouri State, who was in position for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, withdrew from the remainder of the MVC tournament, fearing a possible spread of the virus between teams.
As a result, the bracket was reshuffled and the Braves beat Loyola 70-56 and went on to beat Drake on Sunday 78-70 to clinch the program’s first-ever MVC tournament title and NCAA Tournament bid.