The Virginia men’s basketball team is out of the ACC tournament following a positive COVID-19 test within the program, the ACC announced Friday morning.
“We went from an exhilarating game-winning shot to beat Syracuse to a gut punch regarding the positive COVID-19 test within our program,” said Virginia head coach Tony Bennett in a prepared statement. “I’m hurting for our players, especially our seniors. I told our young men they have every reason to be disappointed, but it is still very important how they choose to respond. We are exhausting all options to participate in the NCAA Tournament.”
“Obviously we’d prefer to win the game to advance to the finals,” Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said on the ACC Network’s Packer & Durham show. “But hey, it is what it is. We’ll have to be ready to play. You’re still playing for a championship.”
Virginia is the second team in as many days forced to withdraw from the ACC tournament due to COVID-19 issues and contact tracing, after Duke left on Thursday morning.
“This is incredibly disappointing for our players,” said Virginia athletic director Carla Williams. “They have done what has been asked of them in very challenging circumstances. It is unfortunate the ACC Tournament has concluded for us, but we have turned our attention to the NCAA Tournament. We are in communication with the appropriate officials regarding our participation.”
While Duke athletic director Kevin White announced Thursday that the Blue Devils’ season was over, that’s not necessarily the case for Virginia. To play in the NCAA tournament, a team needs to show seven consecutive negative daily tests before arriving in Indianapolis, then undergo daily testing while inside the controlled environment there.
Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of men’s basketball, has also said that a team just needs five healthy players to play in an NCAA tournament game. If Virginia doesn’t have a widespread COVID-19 outbreak and the rest of the team continues to test negative, the Cavaliers should be eligible to play in the NCAA tournament.
Saturday is the deadline for any team believing that it cannot meet the medical protocols to inform the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee.
“I’m heartbroken for our student-athletes, coaches and support staff at both Duke and Virginia,” ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said in a statement. “We will follow the lead of our medical personnel to ensure the health and safety of our programs remain the top priority. Our student-athletes and schools have been remarkable this entire season while enduring incredibly challenging circumstances.”
The Cavaliers, the ACC regular-season champions, are a projected 4-seed in the NCAA tournament in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology. Since the coronavirus pandemic canceled the NCAA tournament last year, Virginia remains the reigning champion after winning the title in 2019.
“We don’t know the details of Virginia’s testing, therefore we don’t know the impact it may or may not have on our situation,” said Pete Moore, spokesman for Syracuse. “It’s safe to assume we did not have any positive tests prior to the Virginia game yesterday since all our guys were eligible to play.”
Pastner said his team has not been back to Atlanta since it left to play Wake Forest on March 4 to create its own bubble. He told his players they can go in elevators only with people in their bubble.
“You can do everything right and still get a positive … that’s what it comes down to,” Pastner said. “Can you get lucky enough to not get it?”