It wasn’t long after Duke was withdrawn from the ACC tournament due to COVID-19 issues and ended his season 10 days ago. Then Virginia left the same event and Kansas drove back to Lawrence instead of staying in Kansas City and playing the Big 12 quarterfinals for the public to speak of the wisdom of playing those championships near March Madness.
Duke would not make it through the NCAAs without finishing this event and either achieving considerable success or perhaps even winning the automatic qualifying position that was given to his champion. But UVa and KU were inducted into the 68 group on Selection Sunday, and each of them played their first-round games six days later.
One team that didn’t: that of the conference, which reconfigured its schedule so that its tournament could take place a week early.
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The Atlantic 10 announced a plan in mid-January to move their tournament from Brooklyn to two arenas in Richmond, Virginia. She then decided to postpone the schedule for much of the event, with the rounds being played through the semifinals, which will run from March 3-6, a period previously slated to be the last week of the regular season. The championship game has been moved to March 14th on League member Dayton’s campus, just a short bus ride from the location of the 2021 NCAA tournament in Indianapolis. After St. Bonaventure defeated the VCU in that game and received the league’s automatic bid, the VCU had a 19-7 record and was selected as the general contestant and was awarded the number 10.
According to a sports department release, the VCU had several positive COVID-19 tests on its program in the past few days. The Rams learned at 6:25 p.m. (CET) Saturday from NCAA Vice President Dan Gavitt and Chairman of the Men’s Basketball Committee, Mitch Barnhart, that their game with Oregon, the seventh seed, would not go on. In consultation with the Marion County (Ind.) Health Department, Sports Director Ed McLaughlin said concerns about multiple tests being run over a short period of time led the committee to declare the game uncompetitive and promote the Ducks to the second round .
A year ago, the Rams finished 18-13 and finished eighth in the A-10. Her season ended like so many others, and the conference tournament was canceled when the opportunity to steal an automatic bid was most haunting. In the case of the VCU, however, it was more dramatic.
“We’ve seen it twice now. Last year we were knocked off the floor just before we were supposed to play UMass, and now we have someone else who was so swept away from us,” McLaughlin told reporters on a call late Saturday. “It’s hard for our student athletes. It’s hard for our coaches who have worked so hard and done everything we asked them to do from the perspective of the COVID protocol.
“I want to make sure it’s clear: this is not something that our team broke protocol and did the wrong thing. We don’t know how that happened.
“It’s brutal. That’s the only way I can describe it. I’m heartbroken for our student-athletes. I’m heartbroken for our coaches.”
VCU was hoping to play the game as the NCAA has stated that any team with five eligible players could be available for the competition. The school learned of the multiple positive tests in the past 24 hours and engaged in the contact tracing process believing the Rams could potentially be brought to justice.
Rams trainer Mike Rhoades told reporters he tried to make it a motivational element by walking down the hall on the team floor at JW Marriott and explaining that the Rams were “like a wounded animal” and therefore more dangerous.
“The boys wanted to play,” said Rhoades. “There was a part of me that kept saying it was going to happen. It just can’t happen two years in a row.
“Heartbreaking. This is what you dream of as a college player and coach. It’s just a heartbreaking moment in her young life to take it away like this.
“It’s not what you sign up for, is it? Nobody. But last year we’re talking about two basketball games. There have been over 500,000 deaths in this country from this virus. As devastated as we are over a basketball game.” – Two of them, right? – A lot of people are worse off than we are. “
Rhoades told the story of speaking to former Rams star Justin Tillman, who now plays professionally in Israel and lost both parents to COVID, almost a year ago.
“That was a lot harder than the one I just had,” said Rhoades.
He said he would not question the medical authorities who made that decision.
The NCAA went out of their way to protect themselves from the virus as vigorously as possible in order to end the tournament. Hence, the steps taken over the past week have caused some participants to complain: the isolation of every player, coach and staff who have their own room, hotel food is delivered to every floor to avoid getting to the Meals gathered.
The experience of the VCU shows that all the second considerations about how the season should take place, whether conference tournaments should be played – the spread of the virus was too unpredictable for such decisions to be infallible. The Rams haven’t had a single problem, not a shutdown, over the course of their preseason or regular season. Until the worst time.
“I just shake my head when I look at it. We got all things right,” said McLaughlin. “I wouldn’t do anything differently than us.
“I don’t know if it’s bad luck or what it is. It’s just awful, more than anything. But I don’t think we’d change anything.”
Just the end if that was possible.