What Comes Next? COVID Case Puts Defending Champs on the Tournament Bubble

 After an exciting 3-point shot by Reece Beekman at the buzzer, the #16 Cavaliers were riding high going into Friday’s ACC semifinal game against Georgia Tech. Their momentum had been growing following their three wins in the month of March. However, this came to a screeching halt with Friday morning’s announcement that Virginia had a positive test within the team. This news required the Hoos to pull out from the ACC tournament. With Selection Sunday for the NCAA tournament being only two days away, this leaves many questions about the defending champion’s eligibility.

         The NCAA set regulations for the tournament, none of which have completely ruled UVA out of playing. Tier 1 participants, including the team travel party and officials, are required to have seven consecutive, daily negative test results before arrival in Indianapolis for the tournament, including one PCR test. Once the team gets to the site, they will be tested every day and have to quarantine until their first two negative tests can be determined to be reliable.

         The Virginia player who tested positive has been reported by CBS Sports to have played in their ACC quarterfinal game against Syracuse on Thursday. According to protocols, individuals who test positive must miss at least ten days before being able to return to play with the team. This means that the player who tested positive would have to sit out for the first weekend but could potentially play if the Defending National Champions made it to the Sweet 16. However, contact tracing protocols that would affect others on the team raise more questions.

         The NCAA has its own rules regarding contact tracing, and one case does not necessarily require the whole team to go into quarantine. Evidentially, tracking devices, game film, and interviewing will be used to determine which players and coaches are considered “close contacts” with the player who had tested positive for the Hoos. Those who are not determined to have been in “close contact” will not have to miss practice or game time.

         The NCAA is using the CDC’s definition of a “close contact” as being someone who has been within six feet of an infected person for at least fifteen minutes. Any close contact will have to enter into quarantine and miss nearly all of the practices leading up to the NCAA tournament. However, if they continue to test negative through seven days of quarantine and have no symptoms, close contacts will be available to play the first weekend. Participation for Virginia will be determined by whether or not the coronavirus spreads to more members of the team or staff. As long as the Wahoos have five eligible players, they are able to play.

         Both Virginia’s Head Coach Tony Bennett and Athletic Director Carla Williams have expressed their disappointment for the players as well as their willingness to explore any safe option to allow UVA to be included in the NCAA tournament.

         The Cavaliers are not the only program dealing with COVID-19 issues ahead of March Madness. Two traditional Blue Blood teams have also dealt with positive cases. On Thursday, the Duke Blue Devils had a positive test which ended their run in the ACC tournament and will likely prevent them from getting into the field of 68. Also on Friday, the Kansas Jayhawks, who are projected to make the tournament, had to withdraw from the Big 12 tournament for the same reason.

         Hopefully, the Cavaliers will get an opportunity to hear their name called on Selection Sunday on March 14th at 6 P.M. despite the extremely disappointing news.


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