A "majority" of the Virginia men's basketball team, which is set to defend its NCAA tournament title this upcoming week, is currently in quarantine due to contact with a teammate who tested positive for COVID-19, head coach Tony Bennett said Sunday.
Bennett said the players would remain in quarantine until Thursday, the first day of tournament action. The team plans to travel to Indianapolis on Friday, one day before its first-round game on Saturday.
Bennett spoke with reporters less than two hours after the Cavaliers were selected as a No. 4 seed, and pitted against No. 13 seed Ohio. They were not able to watch the bracket reveal as a team. They do, however, intend to participate in March Madness – if no more positive tests arise.
"Our medical people ... are working with the NCAA to follow every protocol, and that's why our name was called," Bennett said.
What is Virginia's COVID-19 situation?
Bennett said he learned that a player had tested positive on Thursday night, shortly after his team's buzzer-beating victory over Syracuse in an ACC quarterfinal. That player, who reportedly saw game time vs. Syracuse, will likely not be able to play in NCAA tournament's first or second round, Bennett said.
On Friday morning, with the positive test confirmed, Virginia withdrew from the ACC tournament, and contact tracing began.
Per NCAA rules, any close contacts of the COVID-positive individual must quarantine for at least seven days from the time of last contact. With that last contact occurring Thursday night, the "majority" of Virginia players will be in quarantine until the following Thursday. They won't be able to practice as a team.
In the meantime, they'll be tested daily. So far, Bennett said, all tests have come back negative. But because of the virus' day incubation period – usually 3-7 days – more positives could appear anytime this upcoming week.
If none do, Virginia can travel to Indianapolis on Friday and play its first-round game on Saturday.
If some do, the Cavs might – but also might not – be forced to withdraw.
Could Virginia be forced to withdraw from NCAA tournament?
Virginia can play in the NCAA tournament as long as it has five eligible players. So unless a majority of the team tests positive over the coming week, no NCAA rule will force it to withdraw. With players now in quarantine, none who subsequently test positive would have close contacts. So those who continue to test negative could travel to Indy as planned.
If the Cavs do have to withdraw, the NCAA's protocols depend on when they withdraw. If the decision is made before Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET, Louisville – the first team left out of the NCAA tournament field – would replace Virginia as the No. 4 seed in the West region. If the decision is made after that Tuesday deadline, Virginia would forfeit and Ohio would advance to the second round.
Bennett called the situation "not ideal."
"But if you're gonna have it," he continued, "we took it to about the last day that you could have a positive case [and still compete in March Madness]."
If the positive had arose on Saturday or Sunday, the quarantine period likely would have knocked Virginia out of the NCAA tournament.
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