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Virginia gets NCAA Tournament bid, but Bennett concedes COVID-19 situation ‘not ideal’

Tony Bennett
UVA coach Tony Bennett. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

Virginia will be without one player, unnamed, though per Jim Boeheim we can make an educated guess, for the first weekend of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

That’s assuming there is a weekend, and not a one-off, given the limitations being placed on the defending champs in the walk-up to Saturday’s first-round matchup with MAC champ Ohio.

Because of contact-tracing requirements, UVA coach Tony Bennett won’t be able to hold a practice with his team until Thursday.

Players will be able to engage in individual workouts and go over scouting reports via Zoom, but, limited practice reps, then a travel day on Friday to get to Indianapolis, then the game against an offensively-skilled Bobcats squad a day later.

“It’s never a good time to have it. This is not ideal. But if you’re going to have it, we took it to about to the last day that you could have a positive case,” Bennett said via Zoom Sunday night, after it had been announced that the Cavaliers had been slotted as the four seed in the West Region.

The first round begins on Friday. The NCAA giving Virginia a Saturday matchup gives the champs a glimmer of hope that they can be ready.

“I’m thankful the NCAA gave our young men the chance. Because they earned their way into a chance to get into this tournament,” Bennett said.

Virginia had won its regular-season finale, 68-58, at Louisville back on March 6 to clinch the program’s fifth ACC regular-season title in eight seasons.

The top seed in the ACC Tournament then won its quarterfinal round matchup with eight seed Syracuse, 72-69, on a walk-off three from freshman Reece Beekman on Thursday.

Friday morning, it was announced that UVA was being forced to withdraw from the ACC Tournament because an unnamed player had tested positive for COVID-19.

That set into motion the ongoing effort to just get Virginia in position to be able to play.

Local regulations relative to COVID-19 aren’t making things any easier.

Kansas, the three seed in the West Region, has three players currently in COVID-19 protocols, but KU will be able to travel to Indianapolis on Monday to begin its on-site preparations for the weekend.

The Virginia kids will be going from quarantine to the layup line.

As Bennett said, not ideal – but, OK, five pillars. Bennett already cited being thankful.

Another one to highlight here: passion.

“I think this breathed life into them,” Bennett said. “They’re certainly hungry, certainly looking forward to that chance in Indy.”

Story by Chris Graham

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