Oregon automatically advanced to the second round, where it will play second-seeded Iowa on Monday.
The Rams have tested positive multiple times in the past 48 hours, coach Mike Rhoades said in a statement. The team has not said whether the positive tests came from players or other team members. He flew home late Saturday night, and the positive testers traveled individually.
The NCAA said the decision to move the game was made in consultation with the Marion County Health Department.
The NCAA and committee regret that WKU’s student-athletes and coaching staff will not be able to participate in the tournament where they earned their right to play, the NCAA said in a statement announcing the non-competitive match, which took place about three hours before the scheduled kickoff.
VCU athletic director Ed McLaughlin said the Rams heard at about 6:25 p.m. that the game had been canceled.
We knew the positive results would be confirmed tonight and we were hoping that through contact research we would be able to play tonight, but obviously that didn’t happen, McLaughlin said in a video conference with reporters. It all happened pretty fast, but on the other hand, it was… The feeling the committee had, I’m told, given the way several things happened in a short period of time, certainly worried not only the rest of our team, but also our opponents and everyone who will be involved in the game in the future.
The Rams arrived in Indianapolis on Sunday after playing in the Atlantic 10 tournament against St. Louis. They didn’t test positive for the rest of the week.
I want to make sure everything’s clear. It’s not like our team broke protocol and did anything wrong, McLaughlin said. We don’t know how it happened, but it certainly wasn’t bad behavior on our part.
To qualify for the controlled environment of the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis, teams had to have seven consecutive days of negative COVID-19 test results. Once in Indianapolis, the teams were tested daily.
NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations Dan Gavitt said before the NCAA Tournament that a team can continue to play in the tournament as long as it has five eligible and healthy players. NCAA Tournament contact tracking and other COVID-19 protocols should prevent a team from being excluded from the tournament because of one or two positive tests.
Because of this policy, McLaughlin and Rhodes believed VCU could play Saturday night despite the positive test results.
We thought we had enough left to play, but the district, the health department and the NCAA, the medical committee, decided we wouldn’t play anymore, that this wasn’t a game and that Oregon would move on, and we were done, Rhodes said.
I felt pretty good because we had enough people. While you have five guys you can play, Rhoades added later. I walked down the hall and said, we are like a wounded animal, we are like a wounded animal. You don’t want to go up against a wounded animal. … You could see that the guys wanted to play, even though we were missing a couple of players.
However, NCAA spokesman David Warlock wrote in an email to the Associated Press: Given the potential risk to everyone involved in the game, we could not guarantee or be certain that five or more players would be available without risk.
For the second year in a row, VCU ended its season right before kickoff. Last season, the Atlantic 10 tournament was canceled just minutes before the Rams played UMass in the first round.
It stinks, Rhodes said. I can’t sugarcoat it.
This means that the first game of the NCAA Tournament has been cancelled or declared non-competitive due to issues with COVID-19. Tuesday night, the NCAA set a deadline for substitute participation; at that point, no team had a problem.
The Rams were at second base. In January, she was forced to sit out practice and competition due to a positive test for COVID-19 in her program, forcing her to reschedule her match against Davidson. They returned to practice two days later and had no trouble getting through the rest of the season.
Led by Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Bones Hyland, VCU finished second in the conference during the regular season and lost to St. Bonaventure in the A-10 title game. But his work, including the first win of the season against Utah State, was enough to earn the Rhoades a spot in the tournament.
VCU entered the tournament as a 600-1 underdog in the Caesar William Hill Sportsbook. Betting on the Oregon-WCU game made a comeback, but futures betting on the Rams, including odds on winning the tournament, remained in effect at most sportsbooks.
Oregon head coach Dana Altman congratulated VCU on its outstanding season in a statement Saturday.
We hate to see the team’s season end after all the hard work of these student-athletes, Altman said. It’s not the way we wanted to go on, but we’re looking forward to moving on and preparing for Monday’s game.
ESPN’s David Purdum and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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