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Scott German: COVID still top dog at ACC Tournament

dukeLast March, almost to the day, the coronavirus forced the sudden halt to the 2020 Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball tournament.

An exceptionally long year later the virus proved it was not done wreaking havoc on the sports world by ending Duke’s stay at the 2021 tourney with a positive test result by a Blue Devil player.

And despite avoiding the positive coronavirus test by a player or coach in the regular season, Duke proved the virus still has the final say in all matters.

After a convincing win Wednesday evening over Louisville that gave Blue Devil Nation renewed postseason hopes, by lunchtime Thursday a positive test result ended Duke’s season.

A tough season for the Blue Devils, no doubt, but not the way anyone wants to see a team’s season conclude.

This year’s Duke team struggled most of the season.  A freshman decided earlier this year to walk away from the team, declaring for the NBA. At 13-11 Duke needed a strong ACC Tournament showing to even play its way to the NCAA Tournament bubble.

The Blue Devils were well on their way. After blasting Boston College Tuesday, Duke rolled past Louisville 70-56 Wednesday evening behind a remarkable effort from center Mark Williams. Williams’ double-double game included 23 points and 19 rebounds.

As the saying goes, it is hard beating a team three times in one season, and the Cardinals found out the hard way.

So, Duke returned home to Durham after the huge win instead of staying in the team hotel in order to better protect their players from a contact that could lead to a positive COVID test.

The ACC’s protocols that dictate positive tests and mandatory quarantines by noon today did what BC and Louisville could not – namely, send the Blue Devils home for good.

Duke, a five-time national champion, will miss the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1995. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said it was certainly a trying season on and off the floor.

“This season was a challenge for every team across the country, and as we have seen over and over, this pandemic is very cruel and not yet over,” Coach K said.

While this 2020-21 Blue Devils team was not striking fear in opponents, their brief two-game win streak in the ACC Tournament was gaining some momentum.

Duke’s forced exit from Greensboro and the tournament put the college basketball world on notice that the pandemic will go away on its terms. The next few weeks will be interesting.

Story by Scott German


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