Sunday, October 17

March Madness 2021: VCU Left ‘Heartbroken’ After COVID-19 Eliminated Rams From NCAA Tournament

It wasn’t long after Duke was pulled from the ACC Tournament due to COVID-19 issues and ended his season 10 days ago, then Virginia departed that same event and Kansas returned by bus to Lawrence instead of staying in Kansas City. and play the tournament. Great 12 quarter-finals, for the public to complain about the wisdom of playing these championships so close to March Madness.

Duke was not going to make it to the NCAA without completing that event and without achieving substantial success or perhaps even earning the automatic qualifying position awarded to his champion. But UVa and KU were placed in the 68-team pool on Selection Sunday, with each of them playing their first-round games six days later.

A team that didn’t: the conference team that chose to reconfigure its schedule so that its tournament could take place a week earlier.

MOST MADNESS OF MARCH: Live results | Updated support | Television schedule

The Atlantic 10 in mid-January announced a plan to move its tournament from Brooklyn to two stadiums in Richmond, Virginia. And then he chose to advance the schedule for most of the event, with rounds to the semifinals played from March 3-6. , a period previously designed as the last week of the regular season. The championship game was moved to March 14 on the campus of league member Dayton, just a short bus ride from the 2021 NCAA Tournament venue in Indianapolis. After St. Bonaventure defeated VCU in that game, winning the league’s automatic bid, VCU had a 19-7 record and was selected as an overall participant and assigned a No. 10 seed.

However, according to a statement from the sports department, VCU had multiple positive tests for COVID-19 within its program in recent days. The Rams learned at 6:25 p.m. ET Saturday from NCAA Vice President Dan Gavitt and Men’s Basketball Committee Chairman Mitch Barnhart that their game with No. 7 seed Oregon would not go ahead. In consultation with the Marion County (Indiana) health department, Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin said that concern over multiple events occurring in a short period of time led the committee to declare the game non-competitive and advance to the Ducks to the second round. .

A year ago, the Rams finished 18-13 and tied for eighth in the A-10. His season ended like so many others, with the conference tournament canceled just as the possibility of stealing an automatic offer was calling louder. In the case of VCU, however, it was more dramatic.

“It’s happened to us twice. Last year, they took us off the court just before we were supposed to play at UMass, and now they’ve ripped us off another one this way,” McLaughlin told reporters in a call. Saturday night. “It is difficult for our student-athletes. It is difficult for our coaches who have worked so hard and done everything we ask of them from a COVID protocol perspective.

“I want to make sure it’s clear: this is not something where our team broke protocol and did the wrong thing. We don’t know how this happened. But it certainly wasn’t bad behavior on our side, at all.

“It’s brutal. That’s the only way I can describe it. I’m heartbroken for our student-athletes. I’m heartbroken for our coaches.”

VCU was hoping to play the game because the NCAA has stated that any team with five eligible players could be available to compete. The school learned of the multiple positive tests in the last 24 hours and went through the contact tracing process in the belief that it could clear the Rams to go to the court.

Rams coach Mike Rhoades told reporters that he had tried to make it a motivator, walking down the hallway on the team floor at the JW Marriott declaring that the Rams “were like a wounded animal” and so all the more dangerous.

“The guys wanted to play,” Rhoades said. “Part of me kept saying it’s going to happen. This just can’t happen two years in a row.

“Heartbreaking. This is what you dream of as a college player and coach. Having it taken away like this is just one heartbreaking moment in their young lives.

“It’s not what you’re signing up for, is it? Nobody. But in the last year, we are talking about two basketball games. There have been more than 500,000 deaths in this country due to this virus. As devastated as we are by a game of basketball”. – two of them, right? – There are many people who have it worse than us.

Rhoades told the story of how he spoke almost a year ago with former Rams star Justin Tillman, now playing professionally for Israel, who lost his parents to COVID.

“That was a much more difficult talk than the one I just had,” Rhoades said.

He said he would not question the medical authorities who made this decision.

The NCAA has gone to great lengths to protect itself as fiercely as possible against the virus to complete the tournament, hence the measures taken over the past week that led some competitors to complain: the isolation of each player, coach and staff member with their own room, hotel food delivered to each floor to avoid congregating at meals, the ordeal that seems almost perpetual.

VCU’s experience shows that all doubts about how to organize the season, whether to play conference tournaments, the spread of the virus has been too unpredictable for such decisions to be infallible. The Rams didn’t have a single problem, no shutdown, over the course of their preseason or regular season practice. Until the worst possible moment.

“Looking at it, I just shake my head. We did the right things every time,” McLaughlin said. “I wouldn’t do anything different than we did.

“I don’t know if it’s bad luck or what it is. It’s just terrible, more than anything else. But I don’t think we’ll change anything.”

Only the end, if that were possible.

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