LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - March of 2021 has already gone a little mad when it comes to basketball tournaments.
On the men’s side, Kansas withdrew from the Big 12 Tournament because of a positive COVID-19 test as Duke and Virginia both had to drop out of the ACC Tournament for the same reason.
The NCAA Tournament starts next week in Indianapolis for the men, and in San Antonio for the women, and there are contingency plans in place in case teams are unable to compete.
As WAVE 3 Sports first reported, the Duke player who tested positive never entered the game against Louisville on Wednesday, which appeared to be good news for contact tracing for UofL. Word about the positive test for Virginia followed shortly thereafter.
“Virginia being at the top of our league and then having to deal with this is unfortunate,” UofL Athletic Director Vince Tyra said.
Friday, Tyra said it’s troubling news to deal with, but he still believes the NCAA was being safe at the ACC Tournament, and will seriously step up precautions to keep the men’s and women’s bubbles safe over the next several weeks.
“I’m pretty comfortable that NCAA protocol is well over 100 pages of protocols and guidelines for us,” he said. “They are being updated as we speak.”
The 68 teams in Indianapolis will be monitored from single-elevator trips for players in team hotels to individual floors with no cross contamination of teams. Bus rides also will be monitored. Teams will play on separate courts to 25 percent fan capacity. While the men have been in the headlines lately for COVID-19 issues, it’s the women many are concerned about. Their tournament is in San Antonio, where the Texas Gov. Greg Abbott just rolled back all the state’s COVID restrictions.
UofL women’s coach Jeff Walz said the NCAA is sticking to CDC guidelines, and so will his team.
“We’re going to wear our masks,” Walz said. “I mean everything I’ve been told is the NCAA is going to have our protocols and they have basically taken over hotels.”
Added UofL senior guard Dana Evans: “This virus is just crazy, so you just never know, so I just continue to pray and talk to God about it and hope for the best.”
“I’m not naive,” NCAA President Mark Emmert told NBC News. “There are going to things that pop up in the coming weeks, and we’ll have some struggles and challenges to work our way through.”
The women’s tournament tips off March 21. The men begin March18. As far as the NCAA’s contingency plans are concerned, the last four at-large teams missing the field will be designated as replacement teams, and put in the bracket in place of any team from a multi-bid conference that withdraws before its opening game. But once the games begin, there are no replacements. The opponent of a withdrawing team automatically will advance to the next round.