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Coronavirus is unconcerned about the NCAA Tournament.

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Coronavirus is unconcerned about the NCAA Tournament.
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Coronavirus is unconcerned about the NCAA Tournament.

Coronavirus is unconcerned about the NCAA Tournament.

 

The good news is that you didn’t miss much if you didn’t pay attention to college basketball before the NCAA Tournament. The regular season was a revolving door, with the schedule and, at times, the final score being decided by which players and teams were joining and exiting the sport’s COVID-19 protocols.

Besides, it was the same way on Day 2 of the tournament.

Oregon defeated Virginia Commonwealth 1-0 — officially a “no-contest” — and advances to face Iowa due to several VCU players testing positive. Their misfortune. The coronavirus told everyone that it doesn’t allow exceptions just because all the players now have new blue patches affixed to their tournament uniforms reading “NCAA.” One-fifth of the 2020-21 season was wiped out due to the pandemic, and the coronavirus reminded everyone that it doesn’t make exceptions just because all the players now have new blue patches affixed to their tournament uniforms reading “NCAA.”

“It just stinks,” said VCU coach Mike Rhoades, whose team was told of the situation during their pregame meal and was then put in quarantine. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it.”

Due to COVID-19-related problems, the defending champion Virginia had most of its roster quarantined until Thursday, didn’t arrive in Indiana until Friday, and was promptly eliminated by 13th-seeded Ohio 62-58. But that was just Saturday’s second-largest upset.

Abilene Christian, a 14 seed that didn’t even enter Division I until 2018, upset No. 3 Texas, winning 53-52 on the strength of 23 turnovers and two free throws by Joe Pleasant — a 58.8 percent free throw shooter — with 1.2 seconds remaining.

Pleasant said afterward, “I was visualizing the free throws going in before I fired them.” “All I was trying to do was lock in on the rim and shut out the noise.”

In the day’s only other upset, UCLA, which entered the main bracket as a No. 11 seed after beating Michigan State in the First Four, defeated sixth-seeded BYU 73-62. It was all chalk the majority of the time.

Both of the No. 1 seeds competing on Saturday came out firing. Gonzaga, the tournament’s top seed, thrashed Norfolk State, while Michigan dominated Texas Southern. Number two Iona and erratic coach Rick Pitino were sent packing by Alabama, and Grand Canyon — which chartered two private jets to carry 240 members of the GCU student section to the game — was sent packing by Iowa.

Oklahoma, Creighton (by a hair), USC, Kansas, LSU, Colorado (over media favorite and trendy upset pick Georgetown), Florida State, and Maryland were the other winners.

Tony Bennett, the coach of the Virginia Cavaliers, had an alibi ready for why he didn’t make the list, but he didn’t use it.

“I’m not sure whether it would have made a difference if it was a standard prep or not,” he said. The Cavaliers lost to a double-digit seed in the first round for the second time in their last three NCAA Tournament appearances — this time as a No. 4 seed.

Bennett said, “I’m glad we got the opportunity.” “You can’t go back in time and make changes. Given the circumstances, I figured our guys were as prepared as they could be.”

However, not everyone in the same situation experienced the same outcome. Coach Bill Self had good reason to wonder how much firepower he had left when No. 3 Kansas began to slow down, trailing 11th-seeded Eastern Washington 46-38 at halftime.

After a positive test last week, the Jayhawks were forced to withdraw from the Big 12 Tournament, and like Virginia, they barely made it to the Indiana state line in time to claim their bracket spot. Jalen Wilson, a forward, is still in the protocol, and David McCormack, a 6-foot-10 center, was only allowed to return on Friday. He hadn’t trained in ten days, didn’t start against EWU, and after a grueling few minutes in the first half, McCormack exhausting all five of his fouls before running out of gas was the best Self could hope for.

Instead, McCormack carved out a niche in the heart of an Eagles defense that had been stretched thin by Kansas’ timely perimeter shooting, scoring a game-high 22 points as the Jayhawks pulled away.

Self said afterward, “He sort of got his legs under him and he was really, really strong in the second half.” He sounded just as shocked as the rest of us. “I say, seriously good.”

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