CHICAGO, IL – NOVEMBER 12: Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski (R) of the Duke Blue Devils talks with Head … [+]
In the lead-up to March Madness, there had been speculation that some elite teams would opt out of their conference tournaments so as to avoid the risks associated with Covid-19 and to focus on the NCAA Tournament instead.
As it turns out, three of the biggest brands in college basketball have now had to withdraw from their conference tournaments after positive Covid tests.
Kansas of the Big 12 Conference and Duke and Virginia of the ACC all had to cancel their games due to positive tests. Duke on Thursday announced its season is over, while Kansas and Virginia hope to play in the NCAA Tournament beginning next week.
Both teams will have to be able to field a team of at least five healthy players in order to play in the Big Dance. The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee has set an 11 p.m. Saturday deadline for teams to inform the NCAA that their medical situation would not permit sending a team to Indianapolis. The deadline for teams to withdraw in time for replacement teams is Tuesday at 6 p.m.
The NCAA has set up a system of “Replacement Teams,” whereby the the four schools designated on Selection Sunday among the “First Four Out” would be eligible to replace any schools that cannot field a team in the tournament in Indiana. As of Friday afternoon, ESPN has Ole Miss, Saint Louis, Boise State and Seton Hall among the “First Four Out.”
“Obviously we are disappointed and our players are disappointed that they can’t continue to compete for the Big 12 championship,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said in a statement. “While we have been fortunate to avoid this throughout the season, there are daily risks with this virus that everybody participating is trying to avoid. We have followed the daily testing and additional protocols that have been setup for us, unfortunately we caught a bad break at the wrong time.
“I look forward to preparing my team in probably a unique way for next week’s NCAA Tournament.”
With Kansas pulling out of the Big 12 semifinals, Texas advances to the final and will meet the winner of Friday’s semifinal between Baylor and Oklahoma State. The championship game is Saturday.
The Kansas news follows a week in which the school fired both its football coach Les Miles and athletic director Jeff Long following a scandal involving Miles’ tenure at LSU.
Kansas is a projected No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and Virginia is a projected 4 seed, per ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.
Earlier Friday, Virginia, the 2019 NCAA champion, announced it was withdrawing from its ACC Tournament semifinal against Georgia Tech due to a positive test. Georgia Tech will meet the winner between North Carolina and Florida State.
“I’m hurting for our players, especially our seniors,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said in a statement. “I told our young men they have every reason to be disappointed, but it still very important how they choose to respond.
“We are exhausting all options to participate in the NCAA Tournament.”
Duke on Thursday announced its season was over after having a positive test following Wednesday night’s win over Louisville in the ACC Tournament. The Blue Devils’ streak of 24 straight NCAA Tournament appearances is now over.
Duke was on the bubble anyway but had they beaten Florida State in the ACC quarterfinals on Thursday, it would have helped their NCAA Tournament chances.
Said Duke AD Kevin White: “Unfortunately, after going an entire season with no positive COVID-19 tests among our men’s basketball student-athletes and coaching staff, one member of our program tested positive following Wednesday’s ACC Tournament game in Greensboro. After working with our medical professionals and following Duke and ACC Medical Advisory Group health, safety, and contact tracing protocols, the student-athletes on our team are now in quarantine. Since last March when the pandemic started, we have listened to our medical experts and always put safety at the forefront of any determinations regarding competition. As a result, this will end our 2020-21 season. We wish every team still playing college basketball good health and the very best during the next few weeks.”
This post has been updated.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball and Tennis insider who contributes to The New York Times, NJ Advance Media and newspapers nationwide.He is the author of two books and an