No new positive coronavirus tests for Virginia as it waits for tournament clearance

That left some doubt as to whether participating in the NCAA tournament was even viable, but after consulting with NCAA officials, the Cavaliers (18-6) learned that if at least five players tested negative for seven consecutive days, then they would be cleared to face No. 13 seed Ohio in the West Region.

Two more days of anxiety are in store for Bennett, who has communicated only electronically with his players quarantining in Charlottesville. The team is scheduled to travel Friday to Indiana, where every NCAA tournament game is taking place across six venues, including Assembly Hall for Virginia and Ohio.

The Cavaliers will be the last of the 68 teams in the field to arrive. Upon arrival early Friday afternoon, Virginia will be tested during intake and quarantine for a mandated period at the team hotel.

The Virginia player who tested positive will not play in the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.

“It’s certainly a unique way to prepare for the NCAA tournament,” said Bennett, who has been using Zoom calls to disseminate the game plan. “But I’m thankful that the NCAA gave our young men the chance, because they earned their way into it, the chance to get into this tournament considering our circumstances.”

The Cavaliers would be able to practice together for the first time as early as Saturday morning, assuming players test negative a second time after midnight, according to Dan Gavitt, the NCAA senior vice president of basketball.

In the meantime, Bennett and his staff have been reviewing game film of Ohio (16-7), which won the Mid-American Conference tournament championship as a No. 5 seed to secure its first NCAA tournament berth since 2012, when the Bobcats advanced to the Sweet 16.

“There is enough time, and that’s why the NCAA, they’re not breaking any rules or changing anything,” Bennett said. “We’re going to have enough time. It’s just not the ideal prep for it. You know in some ways we’re going to be the safest team if we get down there, right, because we’re here, and we’re quarantining, so that part should make people feel good.”

The Cavaliers enter the NCAA tournament having won three in a row, most recently beating Syracuse, 72-69, with a buzzer-beating three-pointer from freshman guard Reece Beekman at Greensboro Coliseum. Virginia was scheduled to play Georgia Tech in the ACC semifinals before withdrawing.

The upswing for Virginia has come on the heels of a three-game losing streak that prompted Bennett to challenge his players to commit far greater attention to defense, the program’s foundation that carried the Cavaliers to the 2019 national championship.

Virginia is seeking to become the first school to repeat as national champions since Florida did so in 2006 and ’07. The Cavaliers were unable to defend their title last season when the NCAA canceled the tournament amid the first wave of the pandemic.

“Every possession matters even more this time of the year, and we know that,” Virginia forward Sam Hauser said. “And I guess you just have come in and play free and just let the chips fall where they fall, and you live with it.”

Hauser leads Virginia in scoring (16 points per game) and is second in rebounding (6.7) heading into the third NCAA tournament of his career. His first two NCAA tournament games, both losses, came when he was at Marquette with his brother, Joey.

Both Hauser brothers transferred two seasons ago, with Joey landing at Michigan State, and sat out last year, per NCAA transfer rules.

Sam Hauser is averaging 20.6 points over his past five games, including a season-high 24 during a 68-58 win against Louisville in the regular season finale that delivered Virginia its third ACC regular season title in four years and fifth in eight.

Over the past two games, Sam Hauser is shooting 58.6 percent, although his three-point percentage over that time (33.3) is down from his team-leading season average of 43.4.

“I think not only in the back of our heads, but I think it’s in the back of a lot of teams’ heads knowing what’s at stake,” Sam Hauser said of the virus. “If you get hit with a corona problem now, you might be done, so we know that. We’ve been taking safety measures hopefully to extend our season as long as we can.”

Source: WP