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COVID-19 outbreak forces VCU out of NCAA; Oregon advances

Oregon men's basketball coach Dana Altman and the Ducks automatically advance to the second round following the cancellation. File Photo by Bryan Woolston/UPI
Oregon men's basketball coach Dana Altman and the Ducks automatically advance to the second round following the cancellation. File Photo by Bryan Woolston/UPI | License Photo

March 20 (UPI) -- Saturday's first-round game between No. 7 seed Oregon and 10th-seeded VCU has been ruled a no-contest because of COVID-19 issues within VCU's men's basketball program, the NCAA announced.

Oregon automatically advances to the second round following the cancellation.

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"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. "This decision was made in consultation with the Marion County Public Health Department.

"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. Because of privacy issues we cannot provide further details."

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VCU head coach Mike Rhoades said the Rams received multiple positive COVID-19 tests within the past 48 hours.

"We've been tested every day for the past three weeks, but within the past 48 hours we've received multiple positive tests," Rhoades said in a statement Saturday. "We are devastated for our players and coaches. It has been a dream for all of us to play in the NCAA tournament.

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"We appreciate the care of our doctors and administration this year, and all our efforts and attention will be put into our players at this time."

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This is the first NCAA tournament game canceled or declared a no-contest because of coronavirus complications. The NCAA set Tuesday night as its deadline for replacement teams to enter the field, but no teams had issues at that time.

Teams had to record seven straight days of negative COVID-19 tests to enter the NCAA's controlled environment in Indianapolis. Schools have continued to undergo daily testing since arriving at the tournament site.

Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of basketball, said before the start of the NCAA tournament that a team can continue to play in the tourney as long as it has five eligible players. The tournament's contact tracing and other COVID-19 protocols were expected to prevent teams from withdrawing due to one or two positive tests.

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"With the utmost disappointment, our men's basketball program will head home from the NCAA tournament," Ed McLaughlin, VCU vice president and director of athletics, said in a statement. "We are heartbroken for our student-athletes, coaches, campus community and fans.

"Our team earned the opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament. The members of our program did an excellent job following COVID-19 protocols all year, including since we arrived in Indianapolis, so ending our season in this manner hurts even more."

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Oregon will play the winner of the Iowa-Grand Canyon matchup in the second round.

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