The NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee has declared the first-round March Madness game between Oregon and Virginia Commonwealth University a no contest due to multiple positive COVID-19 tests within the VCU program.
As a result, VCU has withdrawn from the NCAA Tournament, and Oregon automatically advances to the second round.
VCU ‘Devastated’ by Positive Tests
Oregon and VCU were hours away from playing their Saturday night contest when news of the cancellation came down.
“We’ve been tested every day for the past three weeks, but within the past 48 hours we’ve received multiple positive tests,” VCU coach Mike Rhodes said via a statement. “We are devastated for our players and coaches. It has been a dream for all of us to play in the NCAA Tournament.”
The result isn’t exactly a COVID upset, but it does rob bettors and fans of what was expected to be a highly competitive matchup. Oregon came into the game as a -5.5 favorite at most sportsbooks, with VCU only a +210 underdog on the moneyline, according to CBS Sports.
ESPN reported that Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill listed VCU as a +60000 pick to win the NCAA Tournament, and that while the bookmaker would refund bets on the Oregon game, futures bets on the Rams still stood.
“They (@VCU_Hoops) deserved to be here…We share their disappointment.”
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 21, 2021
The NCAA said that it made its decision in consultation with the Marion County Public Health Department.
“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,” the NCAA said in its statement. “Because of privacy issues we cannot provide further details.”
Ducks Advance, No Replacement Team Named
Oregon head coach Dana Altman expressed his sympathies to VCU for the unfortunate way their tournament came to an end.
— Oregon Men's Basketball (@OregonMBB) March 20, 2021
“We would like to wish the VCU student-athletes and staff all the best, and congratulate them on an outstanding season,” Altman said in a statement. “We hate to see a team’s season end this way after all the hard work these student-athletes have put in. This isn’t the way we wanted to advance, but we are excited to be moving on and we will start our preparation for Monday’s game.”
The NCAA set rules that allowed teams to continue playing in the tournament as long as a school had at least five eligible and healthy players. The tournament committee could have replaced VCU with another team until a Tuesday night deadline; at this point, teams that drop out will simply forfeit their games.
VCU had made it through the season relatively unscathed by COVID-19 issues. The team briefly stopped activities on Jan. 2 due to a single positive coronavirus test in the Rams’ program, but started practicing again just two days later.
“This isn’t something where our team broke protocol,” VCU athletic director Ed McLaughlin told reporters. “We don’t know how this happened. It’s brutal.”