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No. 16 men’s basketball out of ACC tournament after positive COVID-19 test within the program

The Cavaliers are now expecting to be selected into the NCAA Tournament with the belief that participating in the tournament is possible

<p>Virginia Coach Tony Bennett and freshman guard Reece Beekman celebrate after beating Syracuse Thursday in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals</p>

Virginia Coach Tony Bennett and freshman guard Reece Beekman celebrate after beating Syracuse Thursday in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals

Just a day after freshman guard Reece Beekman sealed a thrilling quarterfinal victory for No. 16 Virginia men’s basketball over Syracuse, the Cavaliers (18-6, 13-4 ACC) had their ACC Tournament hopes dashed following an announcement from the ACC Friday morning that someone within the program had tested positive for COVID-19. Virginia was slated to face-off against Georgia Tech Friday night in the tournament semifinals, but with the game’s cancellation, the Yellow Jackets (16-8, 11-6 ACC) will now move on to the finals to play the winner of Florida State and North Carolina.

Matt Norlander at CBS Sports reported that the positive test came from a Virginia player who played Thursday against the Orange (16-9, 9-7 ACC), narrowing the list of possibilities down to the eight-man rotation that Coach Tony Bennett utilized. Although the Cavaliers were expected to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament regardless of their performance in the ACC Tournament, strict testing protocols may keep Virginia out of the Big Dance, effectively ending its season.

The NCAA made plans at the beginning of 2021 to host the entirety of March Madness in the greater Indianapolis, Ind. area. Teams planning on participating in the tournament will travel to Indianapolis and remain there in a bubble for as long as their respective tournament run lasts. The first game is set to be played March 18 with the tournament’s conclusion set for April 5.

The problem the Cavaliers now face is meeting COVID-19 protocols in order to be cleared to participate in the tournament. 

“NCAA protocols require 7 consecutive days of negative tests BEFORE arriving in [Indianapolis],” reporter Dana O’Neil tweeted. “This, plus whatever quarantining is required for [Virginia], becomes the issue.”

Virginia technically only needs five players to participate in the tournament, so the primary issue will come down to contact tracing. Virginia Athletics has been adhering to specific protocols in regards to contact tracing, although it is unclear at this time whether any NCAA protocols will have priority. Close contacts will be traced and they will be required to quarantine for either 10 days without a test or seven pending a negative test result on their fifth day since exposure, according to Virginia Athletics protocol.

The deadline for individual schools to inform the NCAA that they can or can not meet protocol standards by the beginning of the tournament’s first round is Saturday at 11 p.m. Should Virginia determine that they will not be able to meet protocols, the team’s season — along with the careers of senior forwards Sam Hauser, Jay Huff and Austin Katstra and senior guard Tomas Woldetensae — will be over.

“I’m hurting for our players, especially our seniors,” Bennett said in a statement. “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.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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