March Insanity 2021: VCU left ‘heartbroken’ after COVID-19 eliminates Rams from NCAA Match

It didn’t take lengthy, after Duke was withdrawn from the ACC Match due to COVID-19 points and ended its season 10 days in the past, after which Virginia departed that very same occasion and Kansas bused again to Lawrence quite than keep in Kansas Metropolis and contest the Massive 12 quarterfinals, for the general public carping to start in regards to the knowledge of contesting these championships in such proximity to March Insanity.

Duke wasn’t going to make the NCAAs with out finishing that occasion and both reaching substantial success or maybe even profitable the automated qualifier place accorded its champion. However UVa and KU had been positioned onto the 68-team bracket on Choice Sunday, and every of them contested their first-round video games six days later.

One workforce that didn’t: the one from the convention that selected to reconfigure its schedule so its event might run per week earlier.

MORE MARCH MADNESS: Reside scores | Up to date bracket | TV schedule

The Atlantic 10 in mid-January introduced a plan to maneuver its event from Brooklyn to 2 arenas in Richmond, Va. After which it selected to maneuver up the timetable for the majority of the occasion, with rounds by means of the semifinals contested March 3-6, a interval beforehand designed as the ultimate week of the common season. The championship sport was moved to March 14 on the campus of league member Dayton, only a quick bus trip from the 2021 NCAA Match venue in Indianapolis. After St. Bonaventure defeated VCU in that sport, incomes the league’s computerized bid, VCU had a 19-7 report and was chosen as an at-large entrant and assigned a No. 10 seed.

Nevertheless, in keeping with an athletic division launch, VCU had a number of constructive COVID-19 exams inside its program in current days. The Rams realized at 6:25 p.m. ET Saturday from NCAA vp Dan Gavitt and males’s basketball committee chair Mitch Barnhart that their sport with No. 7 seed Oregon wouldn’t go ahead. In session with the Marion County (Ind.) well being division, athletic director Ed McLaughlin mentioned, the priority about a number of exams occurring inside a brief time period led the committee to declare the sport a no-contest and advance the Geese to the second spherical.

A 12 months in the past, the Rams completed 18-13 and tied for eighth within the A-10. Their season ended as so many others did, with the convention event canceled simply when the potential for stealing an computerized bid beckoned most forcefully. In VCU’s case, although, it was extra dramatic.

“We have had it occur to us now twice. Final 12 months, we received pulled off the ground proper earlier than we had been speculated to play UMass, and now we have now one other one ripped away from us like this,” McLaughlin advised reporters on a name late Saturday. “It is onerous for our student-athletes. It is onerous for our coaches who’ve labored so onerous and executed every part we’ve requested them to do from a COVID protocol perspective.

“I need to be sure that it is clear: This isn’t one thing the place our workforce broke protocol and did the unsuitable factor. We don’t understand how this occurred. But it surely actually wasn’t due to unhealthy habits on our facet, in any respect.

“It is brutal. That is the one means I can describe it. I am heartbroken for our student-athletes. I am heartbroken for our coaches.”

VCU had been hopeful to play the sport as a result of the NCAA has said that any workforce with 5 eligible gamers may very well be accessible to compete. The college realized in regards to the a number of constructive exams throughout the earlier 24 hours and handled the contact tracing course of within the perception it would clear the Rams to take the courtroom.

Rams coach Mike Rhoades advised reporters he had tried to show it right into a motivational aspect, strolling by means of the hallway on the workforce’s flooring on the JW Marriott declaring the Rams “had been like a wounded animal” and thus extra harmful.

“The blokes wished to play,” Rhoades mentioned. “A part of me saved saying it’s going to occur. This simply can’t occur two years in a row.

“Heartbreaking. That is what you dream of as a school participant and a coach. To get it taken away like that is only a heartbreaking second of their younger lives.

“It’s not what you join, proper? No one. However within the final 12 months, we’re speaking about two basketball video games. There’s been over 500,000 deaths on this nation due to this virus. As devastated as we’re over a basketball sport — two of them, proper? — there’s lots of people have it worse than us.”

Rhoades advised the story of how he spoke practically a 12 months in the past with former Rams star Justin Tillman, now taking part in professionally in Israel, who misplaced each his dad and mom to COVID.

“That was rather a lot tougher speak than the one I simply had,” Rhoades mentioned.

He mentioned he wouldn’t query the medical authorities who made this resolution.

The NCAA has endeavored to protect as fiercely in opposition to the virus as doable to finish the event, therefore the steps taken in the course of the previous week that led some rivals to complain: the isolation of every participant, coach and workers member having his or her personal room, the lodge meals delivered to every flooring to keep away from congregating at meals, the testing that appears virtually perpetual.

VCU’s expertise demonstrates that each one the second-guessing about easy methods to stage the season, whether or not to play convention tournaments — the unfold of the virus has been too unpredictable for such choices to be infallible. The Rams didn’t have a single concern, no shutdown, by means of the course of its preseason follow or common season. Till the worst doable time.

“In it, I simply shake my head. We did the fitting issues all over,” McLaughlin mentioned. “I wouldn’t do something in a different way than we did it.

“I don’t know if it is unhealthy luck, or what it’s. It is simply horrible, greater than the rest. However I don’t assume there’s something we might change.”

Solely the ending, if that had been doable.

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