Duke isn’t the only college basketball team from North Carolina whose season ended Thursday because of a positive COVID-19 test.
Only a few hours after it was announced that the Blue Devils have withdrawn from the remainder of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, NC A&T announced that its men’s team would also be unable to play in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference event in Norfolk, Virgina.
The Aggies were the No. 1 seed in the MEAC’s Southern Division with a 7-1 regular season conference record (11-10 overall). They earned a first-round bye and were scheduled to play the winner of Thursday’s game between NC Central and Norfolk State in the tournament semifinals on Friday.
With A&T opting out, the winner of the NCCU-Norfolk State game will advance directly to the championship game, with a trip to the NCAA Tournament on the line. The Aggies have not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2013.
“I have no words for the news we received today,” A&T coach Will Jones, who came into the tournament with a 20-5 record versus MEAC competition, said in a statement. “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.”
This would have been the Aggies’ final tournament as an MEAC member, a conference it helped found a half-century ago. A&T will begin play in the Big South next season.
Athletic director Earl Hilton said it broke his heart to have to make the decision to end the Aggies 2020-21 season after the positive COVID test was discovered early Thursday evening.
“To get to this point and have it taken away before we even get a chance to play is devastating.” he said. “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.”