'A bad break': Kansas out of Big 12 tourney due to COVID-19
By DAVE SKRETTA AP Basketball Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — No. 11 Kansas withdrew from the Big 12 Tournament on Friday after a positive COVID-19 test within the men’s basketball program, becoming the third major team to have its conference postseason end because of the coronavirus.
The development, which sent No. 13 Texas into the championship game against No. 12 Oklahoma State, came only hours after No. 16 Virginia pulled out of an Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament semifinal because of a positive test.
The Jayhawks learned earlier this week they would be without center David McCormack and backup forward Tristan Enaruna due to COVID-19 protocols. The tournament’s second seed managed to squeak past No. 25 Oklahoma 69-62 in the quarterfinals without them Thursday night.
Kansas had gone the entire season without an outbreak that caused it to cancel or postpone a game.
“Obviously we are disappointed and our players are disappointed that they can’t continue to compete for the Big 12 championship,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said in a statement. “We have followed daily testing and additional protocols that have been set up for us. Unfortunately we caught a bad break at the wrong time.
‘“I look forward to preparing my team in probably a unique way for the NCAA Tournament,” he said.
It’s unclear whether the positive test came from a player or staff member. Kansas would need to return seven consecutive days of negative tests that produce at least five eligible players to participate in the first round of the tournament. It opens March 19 — just a week away — and will be played entirely in Indianapolis and the surrounding area.
The team remained in Kansas City and planned to practice with its eligible players this weekend before departing for the Indianapolis on Monday. McCormack, Enaruna and the player that tested positive Friday will not travel with the team, but McCormack and Enaruna are expected to join the Jayhawks before they play their first-round game.
The player that tested positive during the Big 12 Tournament will likely miss the opening weekend of the NCAA tourney.
At least the Jayhawks — they hope — get to play in the tournament. They were the likely No. 1 overall seed and had national championship aspirations before last season’s NCAA Tournament was called off by the pandemic.
It remained to be seen whether Oklahoma will return a positive test as a result of playing the Jayhawks. The Sooners have tested daily leading up to their trip to Kansas City and will continue prior to leaving for Indianapolis.
On Thursday, perennial power Duke pulled out of the ACC Tournament after a pair of wins because of a positive test. The Blue Devils called off their season, cementing an end to their streak of 24 consecutive NCAA tourney appearances.
A day later, defending national champion Virginia also bowed out of the ACC Tournament in what Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett called a “gut punch.” Several smaller schools, including Florida International and North Carolina A&T, also have withdrawn from conference tournaments this week.
“I’m hurting for our players, especially our seniors,” Bennett said in a statement. “We are exhausting all options to participate in the NCAA Tournament.”
The NCAA has put contingency plans in place should a team be unable to participate in its tournament beginning next week in Indiana. 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 their opening game.
Once games begin, though, there will be no replacements and the opponent will automatically advance to the next round.
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