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VCU first team pulled from NCAA Tournament for coronavirus issues

The Rams have had “multiple” positive tests, the school said. Oregon advances to the second round without playing.
An usher places a sign near the fans' entrance to remind them to wear face coverings for a first-round game in the men's NCAA Tournament on Saturday at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind.
An usher places a sign near the fans' entrance to remind them to wear face coverings for a first-round game in the men's NCAA Tournament on Saturday at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind. [ DOUG MCSCHOOLER ]
Published Mar. 20
Updated Mar. 21

INDIANAPOLIS — VCU was pulled out of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday after what the school said were “multiple” positive coronavirus tests in the previous two days.

After canceling last year’s tournament because of the pandemic, the NCAA is holding this year’s tournament in Indiana with teams in what it calls a “controlled environment” but not a bubble.

The 10th-seeded Rams’ first-round game Saturday against Oregon was declared a no-contest. The seventh-seeded Ducks go into the second round.

Related: FSU wins NCAA Tournament opener despite not making a 3

The announcement from the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee came a little more than three hours before the teams were set to play in the West Region. It didn’t offer details, citing privacy concerns, and said the decision came after consultation with the Marion County Public Health Department.

The Rams had one positive test for the coronavirus Wednesday and two more Friday, CBS Sports reported. All tournament teams were required to have at least five eligible players (and no coaches) to play, but local health officials and the NCAA decided that the virus was “spreading” among the Rams, CBS Sports said.

VCU’s players got the news after their pregame meal. “It was devastating. It was heartbreaking. No dry eyes. … It’s just a heartbreaking moment in their young lives,” coach Mike Rhoades said. “It just stinks. There’s no way I can sugarcoat it.”

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Athletic director Ed McLaughlin said the Rams didn’t know how the outbreak happened. “But … I want to make clear that this is not something where our team broke protocol and did the wrong thing,” he said.

The NCAA had said it would allow a team that showed up for a game with as few as five players to take the floor. In VCU’s case, NCAA spokesman David Worlock wrote in an email to the Associated Press: “With potential risks to all involved in the game, we could not guarantee or be comfortable that five or more players would be available without risk.”

Other schools played first-round games after having a single virus case found.

The Rams were forced to stop practicing and playing Jan. 2 because of a positive virus test in the program, forcing a game against Davidson to be postponed. They resumed practice two days later and made it through the rest of the season without further problems until now.

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Led by Atlantic 10 player of the year Bones Hyland, VCU finished second in the conference in the regular season and lost to St. Bonaventure in the A-10 title game. But its body of work, which included a season-opening win over Utah State, was enough to earn Rhoades’ team an at-large berth to the tournament.

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