Virginia's ACC Tournament hopes were dashed when they received their coronavirus test results on Friday morning. A positive test within the Cavaliers program forced the cancelation of their semifinal contest against Georgia Tech and forced Virginia out of the tournament.
While UVA loses out on their chance to win their third ACC Tournament championship in the past seven fully-held tournaments, the bigger concern is if it will have an impact on the NCAA Tournament.
The Cavaliers are a virtual lock to making the March Madness as an at-large team, which makes this situation different from Duke who also bowed out due to a positive test. Virginia was going to hear their name called on Selection Sunday and likely was going to be a top-four seed in a region. The issue is some of the protocols the NCAA has in place and the first-round games tipping off a week from Friday.
In a team statement, it said UVA's status for the NCAA Tournament is still to be determined.
The biggest determining factor for what's next for the Cavaliers is how many players tested positive and how many will be out due to contact tracing. Back in January, the NCAA set protocols that all members of a team's traveling party for the NCAA Tournament must have seven consecutive days of negative tests prior to their arrival to Indianapolis. That makes it a precarious timeline for Virginia's first game.
Whichever individual (or individuals) tested positive, they won't be in Indianapolis until at least the start of the tournament. Publicly, there has not been protocol announced for individuals in contract tracing and how long they must be out.
According to Dan Gavitt, the NCAA's senior vice president for basketball, each team will only need five players at minimum to be eligible to play. So Virginia must determine who needs to be in quarantine and can continue to test negative as well as those who can travel before their first game.
"The committee talked about this weeks ago, wrestled with contingencies, and thought it was fairest for a team that had a great season, earned their way to play in this tournament, that even if they were to be compromised in some way, if they have those five players, they still should have the opportunity to compete rather than be replaced," Gavitt said via the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "If they fall below the threshold of five, of course they would not be able to play by playing rule, nor by tournament protocols."
If a team does not have the minimum number of players eligible to play through COVID-19 protocols, they will be replaced in the bracket.
There is a deadline Virginia has to make that determination. Schools have to inform the NCAA if they can meet the tournament protocols by Saturday evening, according to RTD's David Teel.
If the Cavaliers are unable to meet the protocols, they will not be considered for the initial bracket on Selection Sunday. Virginia athletic director Carla Williams said they are currently "in communication with the appropriate officials regarding our participation.”
However, if the Cavaliers have enough players and support staff continue to test negative over the next several days, the team should be playing in the NCAA Tournament.
“We went from an exhilarating game-winning shot to beat Syracuse to a gut punch regarding the positive COVID-19 test within our program," head coach Tony Bennett said. "I’m hurting for our players, especially our seniors. 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.”