Wed. Apr 21st, 2021

By AARON BEARD EDDIE PELLS, AP SPORTS AUTHOR

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – VCU was knocked out of its first-round game Saturday by the NCAA tournament hour as several players tested positive for COVID-19, an outbreak that affected the 68-team event and one Again, the fragile nature of such a spectacle staged amid an epidemic a year after it was completely canceled.

The NCAA announced the cancellation – officially declaring “no contest” – about three hours before the No. 10 seed Ram was scheduled to tip against No. 7 seed Oregon in the West Region.

VCU players received news that they had finished their pregame meals.

“It was disastrous. It was heart wrenching. No dry eyes. This is what you see as a college player and coach. VCU coach Mike Rhodes said it was a sad moment in his young life to be fired like this. “

VCU athletic director Ed McLaughlin declined to say which players tested positive, citing privacy concerns. There were several positive tests over the two days, which is why Ram had to be forfeited, while other schools were able to play first-round games after the single COVID-19 case.

For example, the Oklahoma guard was in action Saturday despite testing positive for Devilion Harmon and defeating Missouri. Georgia Tech lost to Chicago on Friday after a positive test by ACC player Moshe Wright.

“I shake my head to think that we did all kinds of right things,” McLaughlin said. We do not know how this happened, but it was certainly not due to bad behavior. “

Virginia Commonwealth University, based in Richmond, is a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference and is surprisingly known in men’s basketball as the 11th seed in the 2011 Final Four.

A year after the tournament was completely over in the early days of the pandemic, the NCAA was hoping to tidy up through a 19-day basketball celebration known as March Madness, which brought the arena capacity to 22 % Or less and will base the whole thing in Indiana. Instead sprinkle sports across the country.

The governing body of college sports gave all players seven negative COVID tests before arrival, then placed all teams in city hotels and restricted their movements.

It called it a “controlled environment”, which essentially limited teams to hotels, the nearby Convention Center for practices and a minor league baseball stadium across the street for a chance to get some fresh air.

All teams were declared healthy on Tuesday night’s deadline to allow schools to change to brackets. Once that passed, however, there were no alternatives.

The NCAA said that it would allow a team that showed the floor with five players. In the case of VCU, NCAA spokesman David Warlock wrote in an email to The Associated Press: “With all the potential threats involved in the game, we cannot guarantee or are comfortable that five or more players are available without risk Will be. “

This means that the road to Oregon became a little easier; The Ducks will now need to win five games instead of just six, so that the Nets can be cut and celebrate a title. Iowa will be awaited on Monday, the West No. 2 seed.

“This is not the way we wanted to move forward, but we are excited to move forward,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said.

During the 26-day stretch this season, his team had just five practices and a single game due to coronovirus issues that disrupted many aspects of life.

And, yes, this edition of NCAAs was already showing signs of trouble before Saturday.

In the days leading up to the tournament, a half-dozen referees who went to dinner together before checking into their hotel were all sent home as one tested positive.

Last week, Virginia and Kansas – a proud event with previous national championships – both pulled out of their conference tournament. Virginia did not arrive in Indianapolis until Friday, making her the last team to get there, as she needed to clear the Clarantine protocol to get back home, and unusual preparations could not help the fourth-seeded Cavaliers, Who were troubled by Ohio. Saturday.

The first full day of action went off without a hitch. Day 2 then went well, when a trick news release arrived: “The NCAA and the committee regret that VCU’s student-athletes and coaching staff will not be able to play in a tournament in which they have earned the right to participate. “

The NCAA said that it decided to remove VCU from the competition in consultation with the local health department.

This was not the first coronovirus issue of the season for the Ram: a positive test in January forced him to halt basketball activities and postpone a game against Davidson. But VCU resumed practice after two days and made it through the rest of the regular session without any problems.

The Rams lost the Atlantic 10 title game, but made it to the tournament as a big team. They were in the 19–7 headlines on Saturday.

Now his postmarton is over, without actually being given a chance to play in the Big Dance.

“It’s a reminder that we just have to be safe,” Southern California coach Andy Enfield said after his team’s win over Drake. “And sometimes, COVID takes twists and turns. They are unpredictable. And so I was very sorry to hear this. “

Kansas coach Bill Self, whose team also won on Saturday, called the situation “a high concern for everything”.

“It doesn’t matter that it’s 2 o’clock in the morning, (as) we’ll be going into group text as soon as we get a text message from the (testing) company,” Self said. I am receiving messages. 2 o’clock from the trainer, and I’m awake, getting ready to get lessons. “

AP Sportswriters Howard Fendrick and Hank Kurz Jr. contributed to this report.

More AP college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and updated bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket

Copyright 2021 associated Press. All rights reserved. This content may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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