The United States' annual college basketball tournament, commonly known as March Madness for its regular upsets and thrilling games, has thrown another curveball in this year's edition, one team forced to forfeit this morning due to Covid-19 concerns.
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) was pulled from the tournament this morning after what the school said were “multiple” positive COVID-19 tests within the past two days, ending their run in college basketball's annual showcase before it began.
Last year's entire tournament was called off because of the pandemic, and the NCAA moved this year's event to Indiana and put teams in what it called a “controlled environment.”
But those steps weren't enough to ensure every game would be played.
The 10th-seeded VCU first-round game Saturday against Oregon was declared a no-contest, the NCAA said, sending the seventh-seeded Ducks into the second round without playing.
“We’ve been tested every day for the past three weeks, but within the past 48 hours we’ve received multiple positive tests,” VCU coach Mike Rhoades said in a statement.
“We are devastated for our players and coaches. It has been a dream for all of us to play in the NCAA Tournament.
“We appreciate the care of our doctors and administration this year, and all our efforts and attention will be put into our players at this time.”
The announcement from the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee came a little more than three hours before the teams were set to play in the West Region.
It didn’t offer specific details, citing privacy concerns, and said that the decision came after consultation with the Marion County Public Health Department.
“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 earned the right to participate,” the statement read.
VCU was in the field for the ninth time in 10 tournaments. They made it to the Final Four in 2011 as an 11 seed.