The COVID-19 pandemic’s presence over the college basketball postseason struck Thursday.
The Duke, Virginia and North Carolina A&T men’s basketball teams have withdrawn from their respective conference tournaments after positive COVID-19 tests within the programs.
Duke (13-11) ended its chances at the NCAA Tournament immediately, with director of athletics Kevin White releasing a statement that said, in part, “this will end our 2020-21 season.”
The full release said, “The Duke University men’s basketball team will not continue competing in the 2021 ACC Tournament due to the school’s and conference’s health and safety protocols. The determination was made following the positive COVID-19 test within a member of the program’s Tier 1 personnel after Wednesday’s game.”
The 10th-seeded Blue Devils had beaten Boston College on Tuesday and Louisville on Wednesday before Thursday’s quarterfinal game against Florida State was canceled.
“While our season was different than any other than I can remember, I loved the 2020-21 Duke Basketball team and was honored to be their coach,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We have not asked more of any team in our history, and they deserve enormous credit for handling everything like the outstanding young men they are. I feel deeply for our players, who have done a terrific job all season in taking care of each other and the team.
“This season was a challenge for every team across the country and as we have seen over and over, this global pandemic is very cruel and is not yet over. As many safeguards as we implemented, no one is immune to this terrible virus."
According to The News & Observer, one Duke player tested positive, while contact tracing would have made multiple players unavailable. It was Duke’s first positive test of the season.
“After working with our medical professionals and following Duke and ACC Medical Advisory Group health, safety, and contact racing protocols, the student-athletes on our team are now in quarantine,” White said. “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.”
ESPN reported Friday morning that Virginia has also bowed out of the ACC Tournament. The top-seeded Cavaliers, who claimed a 72-69 win over Syracuse on Thursday, were scheduled to play Georgia Tech in Friday's semifinals. Virginia will try to get more clarity into it's situation before the NCAA Tournament field is selected Sunday.
North Carolina A&T went through a similar situation, although the Aggies (11-10) were a No. 1 seed in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
WCNC, an NBC affiliate in Charlotte, reports that one positive test caused the Aggies to pull out of Friday’s semifinal game against Norfolk State.
“I have no words for the news we received today,” North Carolina A&T coach Wil Jones said, according to WCNC. “To not be able to allow these kids a chance to compete is a feeling I can’t explain. Aggie Nation we must rally behind these players. We must celebrate this group. They have done their best to protect the Aggie brand this season.”
“My heart aches so much for these young men,” North Carolina A&T director of athletics Earl M. Hilton III said. “To get to this point and have it taken away before we even get a chance to play is devastating. I am proud of the leadership our coaching staff showed. I am proud of our training staff for all the dedication they exhibited, and I am proud of our student-athletes. They did everything we asked of them. The global pandemic has proven to be unpredictable, and its outcomes are often cruel.”