GREENSBORO — First Duke, now Virginia.
For the second day in a row, a team has withdrawn from the ACC Tournament because of a positive COVID-19 test.
This time it’s the top-seeded Cavaliers, who were scheduled to play Georgia Tech in Friday’s first semifinal at Greensboro Coliseum. Because coach Tony Bennett’s team will be unavailable while quarantining under ACC protocols, the fourth-seeded Yellow Jackets will automatically advance to Saturday’s championship game.
That is, assuming there are no further COVID outbreaks or opt outs.
North Carolina and Florida State are still scheduled to play to fill the other spot in the final. Starting time for that game has been moved up an hour to 8:30 p.m.
“I’m heartbroken for our student-athletes, coaches and support staff at both Duke and Virginia,” new ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said. “Our teams have worked incredibly hard and sacrificed so much throughout this season. We continue to be led by our ACC Medical Advisory Group and the protocols put in place that have allowed our teams to safely compete during the 2020-21 season.
“We will follow the lead of our medical personnel to ensure the health and safety of our programs remain the top priority. Our student-athletes and schools have been remarkable this entire season while enduring incredibly challenging circumstances.”
Duke became the first team to withdraw from the tournament when it received notice of a positive test within its roster on Thursday, shortly before UVA took the court for its quarterfinal matchup against Syracuse.
The Cavaliers (18-6) won the game 72-69, with Reece Beekman’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer providing the tournament with a signature moment.
Because the NCAA requires teams to have seven consecutive days of negative COVID tests before being allowed into its bubble in Indianapolis next week, UVA’s participation in that tournament is now in serious jeopardy.
The Cavaliers are the defending national champions, having won the title in 2019. Last year’s NCAA Tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m hurting for our players, especially our seniors,” Bennett said in a statement. “I told our young men they have every reason to be disappointed, but it is still very important how they choose to respond. We are exhausting all options to participate in the NCAA Tournament.”
Also Thursday, NC A&T was forced to withdraw from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournamanet in Norfolk, Va., when it had members of its traveling party test positive.