Ducks advance as Covid-19 cancels March Madness game

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Virginia Commonwealth University men's basketball head coach Mike Rhoades will not guide his team in this year's NCAA tournament after Covid-19 protocols forced the Rams out of the event just befoe their scheduled opening matchup against the Oregon Ducks

Covid-19 issues knocked Virginia Commonwealth University out of the US national college basketball tournament on Saturday, serving notice that March Madness would not be immune from the deadly virus.

The seventh-seeded University of Oregon Ducks advanced to the second round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men's basketball championship over the 10th-seeded Rams after the cancellation.

"The NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee has declared the VCU-Oregon game scheduled for Saturday night at Indiana Farmers Coliseum a no-contest because of COVID-19 protocols,' the NCAA said in a statement.

An outbreak involving Richmond-based VCU's team ahead of their tournament opener at Indianapolis, Indiana, forced the decision, made in consultation with local health department officials.

"As a result, Oregon will advance to the next round of the tournament. The NCAA and the committee regret that VCU’s student-athletes and coaching staff will not be able to play in a tournament in which they earned the right to participate."

VCU coach Mike Rhoades's team went 19-7 this season, finishing second in the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Remaining unknown was exactly who or how many VCU players were involved.

"Because of privacy issues we cannot provide further details," the NCAA said.

Last year's tournament was called off due to the Covid-19 pandemic but safety measures were established this year with the intention of playing a complete tournament in a "bubble" atmosphere in and around Indianapolis rather than at venues around the nation as usual.

Teams had to show seven consecutive days of negative Covid-19 tests before being allowed into the controlled environment in Indiana, where teams undergo daily testing.

There was a Tuesday night deadline to allow for substitute teams to replace any who had Covid-19 issues but it came and went with no teams struck.

NCAA officials said before the start of the tournament that teams would be allowed to compete with as few as the minimum five healthy players.

Contact tracing and other safety protocols were designed so that a team might be able to continue despite losing even several players to positive tests.

Games in the round of 32 are set to begin on Sunday.