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Positive COVID-19 test for Virginia nixes ACC semifinal

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Virginia Syracuse

Mar 11, 2021; Greensboro, North Carolina, USA; Virginia Cavaliers head coach Tony Bennett talks to his team during a timeout as his team plays the Syracuse Orange during the second half in the quarterfinal round of the 2021 ACC tournament at Greensboro Coliseum. The Virginia Cavaliers won 72-69. Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlantic Coast Conference has canceled its tournament semifinal game between No. 16 Virginia and Georgia Tech due to a positive COVID-19 test, quarantining and contact tracing within the Cavaliers program.

It is second tournament game the league has called off in two days due to COVID issues.

The ACC made the announcement Friday morning, less than 12 hours before the Yellow Jackets and Cavaliers were set to play the first of two semifinal games. That means Georgia Tech will advance to Saturday’s championship game to face the winner of the North Carolina-Florida State matchup.

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.”

Virginia athletic director Carla Williams said in the statement the school was “in communication with the appropriate officials regarding our participation” in the NCAA Tournament, which starts Tuesday.

The cancellation came a day after Duke withdrew from the tournament and ended its season amid its own positive test before facing the Seminoles in the quarterfinals.

ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips said in a statement released by the league that he was “heartbroken” for the student-athletes, coaches and support staff at Duke and Virginia.

“We continue to be led by our ACC Medical Advisory Group and the protocols put in place that have allowed our teams to safely compete during the 2020-21 season,” he said. “We will follow the lead of our medical personnel to ensure the health and safety of our programs remain the top priority.”

The Cavaliers (18-6) are the tournament’s top seed and were coming off a win against Syracuse on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Reece Beekman on Thursday.

While Virginia’s NCAA Tournament status is unclear, the tournament will be held entirely in the state of Indiana to create what NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt has called a “controlled environment” instead of a bubble.

The tournament protocols include requiring each member of a team’s travel party to complete seven negative COVID-19 tests before leaving for Indianapolis. Gavitt has said a team can continue to play if it has five players available through those safety protocols.

“This whole year has been a lot different for everyone with the testing protocols, socially distancing, wearing masks, making sure you’re not seeing people outside of your bubble really,” Virginia guard Sam Hauser said after the Syracuse win.

“Pretty proud of our guys. We were very disciplined throughout the year and continue to be, especially this time of the year when if you get a COVID bug like that, it could end your season. ... We’re just going to continue to take the right protocols, and we should be all right.”