The men’s basketball team at Duke University was one of the weaker teams in its conference. A freshman decided to announce the NBA draft in February and not play the rest of the season. With a 13–11 record, the Blue Devils’ chances to make the NCAA tournament were among their shortest in decades.
But hours after Wednesday night’s win over Louisville, Duke had survived the signature clash of this college basketball season: a positive coronavirus test by a player or coach. One player then tested positive, and at lunchtime on Thursday, Duke’s season was done.
Duke coach Mike Krazyvski said in a statement after the team was forced, “This season was a challenge for every team across the country and as we have seen time and again, this global epidemic is very cruel and not yet over happened.” To withdraw from the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. “None of the security measures we implemented are immune to this terrible virus.”
The day’s decision, which came out of the ACC’s medical protocols that govern positive tests and compulsory quarantine, finalized that Duke, a five-time national champion, would miss the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1995. (2020 tournament) was canceled. A year ago on Friday, before the bracket was set and when Duke was 25-6, due to the virus.)
But while this Duke team was not a formidable force like its predecessors, its inevitable exit from basketball’s postseason was a warning during the entire game before its biggest moment that the next few weeks could quickly deteriorate.
The NCAA plans to welcome 68 teams to Indianapolis for the men’s tournament, which will begin next week, and 64 for San Antonio for the women’s competition, which is scheduled to begin March 21. Fans will be welcome in many sports, and although players, coaches in some roles, and others will be tested daily for the virus, the NCAA did not create a heavily restricted environment such as the NBA and other pro leagues used last season is.
The health status of the teams is so fluid that the bracket, which will be released for the men’s tournament on Sunday evening, will not freeze until 6 pm on Tuesday. Until then, the replacement squad will be on standby to fly to Indiana if a team in the bracket faces its coronovirus crisis.
And as Duke observed on Wednesday and Thursday, those crises could intrude on the best-preserved, well-financed and well-monitored programs.
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said, “Every US coach is concerned about what we are doing, how fragile it is. It was scheduled to play the Blue Devils on Thursday and after the Duke’s return to the ACC tournament. Automatically advanced to. ” “You really have to stay within your small team bubble where you go, where you eat, where you sleep, who your friends are, who you come in contact with, the sacrifices you have to make.”
He said, “You can be the most disciplined person in the world, but by accident you run into something that you don’t even know where it came from. This is what we are all facing . “
Under the ACC’s protocol, basketball is classified as a high-risk sport and players undergo regular testing. But one of the biggest pitfalls of roster management in any game during the past year is contact tracing, which can sweep most or all of a team in the least order. Indeed, Duke’s athletic director Kevin White suggested on Thursday that all of Duke’s players were ordered to quarantine. In December, the Duke women’s team ended its season early, citing safety concerns related to the epidemic.
NCAA officials hope that the systems they have established in Indiana and Texas will allow the tournament, which is critical to the association’s finances, to proceed without an outbreak. But they also set a policy for when a team should leave a single-elimination tournament: when a school does not have at least five eligible, healthy players.
Duke’s experience, including the need for players to quarantine for at least seven days, again showed how fast a roster could rotate. But it was also reminded on Thursday that how the troubles of one team do not necessarily play the possibilities of the other.
Louisville, which Duke beat 70-56 on Wednesday night, said early Thursday that it did not believe any of its players would be affected by contact tracing, an assessment largely fed by digital tracking devices that players Use during games and will also wear during team activities in national tournaments.
“Our group is tested daily and is on the required path for consecutive days of negative tests” to be able to “NCAA” tournaments.
But whatever optimism surrounding the game is likely to suppress Louisville’s style even further, with virtually no one who understands March and early April as easy.
As Mitch Barnhart, Kentucky’s athletic director and NCAA tournament selection committee chairman, put it this week before Duke’s return, “We’ve come so far, so now let’s hope we finish three weeks from Monday.” Will get to the line. “
Adam Zagoria Contributed to reporting.