Virginia has a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Whether the Cavaliers can get to Indianapolis with enough available players is to be determined.
Virginia was forced to withdraw from the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament semifinals Friday because a person with the team tested positive for COVID-19. Coach Tony Bennett said Sunday night there were no new positive results, but most of his players will be in quarantine until Thursday because of contact tracing.
While the other 67 teams in the field of 68 were either already in Indianapolis or expected to arrive Monday, the plan for Virginia — if all goes well — is to travel on Friday for a first-round West Region game against No. 13 seed Ohio on Saturday night.
“We’ll be using Zoom a lot with video,” Bennett told reporters. “It’s certainly a unique way to prepare for the NCAA Tournament. But I’m thankful that the NCAA gave our young men the chance because they earned their way into it.”
The fourth-seeded Cavaliers were the last team to be crowned NCAA champions before the pandemic forced the cancellation of last year’s tournament. And they aren’t the only program in this year’s field dealing with uncertainty.
Kansas was the other team to make the NCAA field after being forced to withdraw from its conference tournament last week.
Jayhawks coach Bill Self said Kansas, the three seed in the West just ahead of Virginia, would be traveling to Indianapolis on Monday, but leaving behind three players. Self said he hoped David McCormack and Tristan Enaruna, who tested positive before the Big 12 Tournament, would be cleared to rejoin the team later this week.
Virginia’s situation seems more precarious.
The NCAA is requiring every member of a team’s travel party of up to 34 people to have seven consecutive negative COVID-19 tests before arriving in Indianapolis. Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of basketball, said Virginia can still meet those requirements.
“As unfortunate as their situation was — to not be able to complete the ACC Tournament — it happened early enough that those impacted individuals that went into quarantine got clearance and approval from their local health officials to be quarantined for just seven days, which does match our medical protocols of the seven days of negative testing,” Gavitt said.
“It was close. Frankly, had that happened over the weekend, (Saturday) or (Sunday) it probably would not have been able to happen and be accommodated,” he added.
As is the case with all the other tournament teams, Virginia’s travel party will be tested upon arrival in Indianapolis, quarantined until results are returned, tested again, and returned to quarantine until those results come back.
“It could be a situation where you practice here and you just show up at the game and play,” Bennett said.
There are replacement teams waiting if Virginia, or any team, needs to pull out of the tournament. Louisville, Colorado State, Saint Louis and Mississippi have been told to stand by on campus; the Cardinals would be the first choice to step in as the team that came closest to making the field.
The deadline for teams to be replaced is Tuesday. After that, if a team cannot play, the game is deemed a no contest and its opponent advances to the next round.
Bennett is hopeful Virginia will take the court as scheduled, 7:15 p.m. Eastern on Saturday night at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana.
“We’re going to have enough time,” Bennett said, “it’s just not the ideal prep for it.”