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Duke, North Carolina A&T out of conference tournaments due to COVID-19

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said his players deserve enormous credit for handling the COVID-19 pandemic this season. The Blue Devils withdrew from the ACC tournament on Thursday due to a positive COVID-19 test within the program. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said his players deserve "enormous credit" for handling the COVID-19 pandemic this season. The Blue Devils withdrew from the ACC tournament on Thursday due to a positive COVID-19 test within the program. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

March 11 (UPI) -- The Duke men's basketball team withdrew from the ACC tournament Thursday due to a positive COVID-19 test result that emerged from within the program, the school announced.

"The Duke University men's basketball team will not continue competing in the 2021 ACC tournament due to the school's and conference's health and safety protocols," Duke said in a news release.

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"The determination was made following the positive COVID-19 test within a member of the program's tier 1 personnel after Wednesday's game."

The NCAA designates tier 1 personnel as the group with the highest exposure to COVID-19. The group consists of athletes, coaches, trainers, physical therapists, medical staff, equipment staff and officials.

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Duke beat Louisville 70-56 in the second round of the tournament Wednesday at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C. Before pulling out of the tournament, the Blue Devils were scheduled to face Florida State in the quarterfinals at 6:30 p.m. EST Thursday in Greensboro.

Duke (13-11) could have clinched an automatic bid into the 2021 NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament with an ACC tournament title. The withdrawal likely means the Blue Devils will miss the tournament for the first time since 1995.

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"While our season was different than any other that I can remember, I loved the 2020-21 Duke basketball team and was honored to be their coach," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a news release.

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"We have not asked more of any team in our history, and they deserve enormous credit for handling everything like the outstanding young men they are.

"I feel deeply for our players, who have done a terrific job all season in taking care of each other and the team. I am extremely proud of their collective attitudes and effort, which could not have been stronger."

He added: "This season was a challenge for every team across the country and as we have seen over and over, this global pandemic is very cruel and is not yet over. As many safeguards as we implemented, no one is immune to this terrible virus."

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The ACC said Florida State will advance to the men's conference tournament semifinals due to Duke's withdrawal. The Seminoles will play North Carolina or Virginia for a chance to play in the conference championship game.

"Unfortunately, after going an entire season with no positive COVID-19 tests among our men's basketball student-athletes and coaching staff, one member of our program tested positive following Wednesday's ACC tournament game in Greensboro," Duke athletic director Kevin White said.

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"After working with our medical professionals and following Duke and ACC medical advisory group health, safety and contact tracing protocols, the student-athletes on our team are now in quarantine. ... We wish every team still playing college basketball good health and the very best during the next few weeks."

The Duke women's basketball team announced Dec. 25 that it canceled the remainder of its 2020-21 season because of COVID-19 concerns.

The ACC men's basketball tournament championship is at 8:30 p.m. EST Saturday in Greensboro.

Also Thursday, top-seeded North Carolina A&T withdrew from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference men's basketball tournament after a positive COVID-19 test within its program.

The Aggies won the Southern Division's regular-season championship after going 7-1 in conference play.

"Obviously, we are tremendously disappointed for the student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans for North Carolina A&T State," MEAC Commissioner Dennis E. Thomas said Thursday. "They worked extremely hard to get where they are and to have to end [the season] this way is extremely unfortunate.

"But that's the world we live in today, and hopefully we will have no other positives moving forward for the basketball tournament."

North Carolina A&T was scheduled to play the winner of the Norfolk State-North Carolina Central matchup on Friday. The winner of that quarterfinal game will now advance to Saturday's MEAC title game.

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