Positive COVID-19 tests derail Kansas, Virginia tourney runs

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Virginia head coach Tony Bennett watches play during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Syracuse in the quarterfinal round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Thursday, March 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

A year to the day after COVID-19 brought the college basketball postseason to a halt, the pandemic continues to disrupt the sport, with three premier programs forced to abandon their conference tournaments because of positive coronavirus tests.

No. 16 Virginia — the most recent national champion — and No. 11 Kansas were forced out of the semifinals of their tournaments on Friday, a day after Duke also dropped out, ending a disappointing season for coach Mike Krzyzewski’s storied program.

There's no guarantee that Kansas or Virginia will be back for the NCAA Tournament, potentially depriving the sport's annual showcase of two title contenders as well as the five-time national champion Blue Devils, who were unlikely to make this year's field.

Although the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big 12 tournaments continued without the virus-affected schools, Friday's developments were an eerie reminder of of March 12, 2020, when both leagues ended their tournaments as teams were warming up for the first of a full day's worth of games. That day turned out to be the end of the college basketball season.

The ACC announced the positive test and subsequent contact tracing and quarantining in Virginia's program less than 12 hours before the Cavaliers were set to play Georgia Tech in the first of two semifinal games. The Yellow Jackets advanced to the finals, where they await the winner of the North Carolina-Florida State matchup.

Hours later, Kansas announced its withdrawal from the Big 12 Tournament, leading to the cancellation of its semifinal matchup with No. 13 Texas. The Longhorns will play either No. 2 Baylor or No. 12 Oklahoma State for the title. The Jayhawks said in a statement they would continue preparing for the NCAA Tournament, which starts Thursday.

Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett described the outcome of the tests as a “gut punch.”

“I’m hurting for our players, especially our seniors,” Bennett said in a statement. "I told our young men they have every reason to be disappointed, but it is still very important how they choose to respond. We are exhausting all options to participate in the NCAA Tournament.”