Virginia Basketball Earns No. 4 Seed In West, Will Face Ohio

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Sam Hauser hopes to lead Virginia basketball in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. The Hoos, who are in quarantine because of a positive COVID-19 test on Friday, are set to face Ohio on Saturday. – Photo courtesy Matt Riley/Virginia Athletics Media Relations

The 2020-21 NCAA Tournament field has been announced and the University of Virginia men’s basketball program has been tabbed as the No. 4 seed in the West Region. The 2020-21 ACC regular season champion Hoos (18-6) will square off against the 13-seed Ohio Bobcats (16-7), who made the field after winning the MAC postseason tournament.

Because of COVID-19, which caused the NCAA to cancel the 2020 Tournament, 2021 March Madness will be held entirely in the state of Indiana. UVA, which had to exit the 2021 ACC Tournament on Friday after a positive COVID-19 test within the program, is scheduled to face Ohio on Saturday, March 20. The typical NCAA Tournament format is for the first round to be played Thursday and Friday (following the First Four matchups) and the Round of 32 to take place on Saturday and Sunday. This year, the first round will be played Friday/Saturday and the Round of 32 on Sunday/Monday.

Virginia and Ohio are set to tip at Assembly Hall in Bloomington at 7:15 p.m. EST. The game will be televised on truTV.

“I congratulated [the players on making the NCAA Tournament] and said you earned your way,” said Virginia head coach Tony Bennett, who celebrated the selection with his team via Zoom. “Look where we were on Friday. Not sure. Now we’re here. And let’s be grateful. Let’s move forward. Let’s control what we can control.”

UVA learned a player had tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, hours after the Hoos defeated Syracuse in buzzer-beating fashion in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals. A retest was conducted and the positive case was confirmed in the early morning hours Friday. Because of contact tracing, the Hoos could not proceed further in Greensboro. As it turned out, their NCAA Tournament availability remained.

“If your going to have [a positive case], we took it to about the last day that you could have a positive case (and still play in the NCAA Tournament),” Bennett said.

“I remember when I told the team, ‘We have a positive. We’re not going to be able to play against Georgia Tech today’. Looking at Tomas (Woldetensae), and looking at Sam (Hauser), and looking at Jay (Huff), and then kind of like, what does this mean for the (NCAA Tournament)? Where that went, that was rough, and I didn’t know at that time,” Bennett said. “Then you get all the information. And again, our medical staff and the University and the NCAA, we got together and they did a great job because there is so many things you don’t know. I think, because we saw our name (on Selection Sunday), because we’ve had negative tests, that’s why we’re optimistic. We have that chance.”

As of Sunday evening, the Cavaliers have had no new positive cases. According to NCAA Tournament protocols, five healthy players are all that is needed for a team to participate in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

“We have one positive case,” Bennett said in a Zoom press conference. “The majority of our team is in quarantine, so if the testing goes well we’ll have the majority of our team to play. So, that’s that. We’ll know more as this thing goes on, but the quarantine ends Thursday and, if testing goes well, we’ll be able to have a normal practice (Friday). And so that’s kind of the plan. And again, not ideal, but again that’s why we’re trying to follow all the protocols, working with the University and the NCAA people. [The NCAA personnel] very aware of our situation. We’re doing it right, so that’s kind of where it stands.”

The winner of the UVA/Ohio matchup will take on either 5-seed Creighton or No. 12 UC-Santa Barbara. Undefeated Gonzaga, which is the top overall seed in this year’s tournament, is the No. 1 seed in the West.

WEST REGION

1 Gonzaga vs. 16 Norfolk State/Appalachian State
8 Oklahoma vs. 9 Missouri
5 Creighton vs. 12 UC-Santa Barbara
4 UVA vs. 13 Ohio

6 USC vs. 11 Wichita State/Drake
3 Kansas vs. 14 Eastern Washington
7 Oregon vs. 10 VCU
2 Iowa vs. 15 Grand Canyon

Virginia is one of seven ACC teams to make the field, joining Florida State (No. 4 seed in the East Region), Clemson (No. 7, Midwest), North Carolina (No. 8, South), Georgia Tech (No. 9, Midwest), Virginia Tech (No. 10 seed, South) and Syracuse (No. 11 seed, Midwest). Click here to view the full 2021 NCAA Tournament bracket on CBSSports.com.

Since a loss to Kent State on January 16, Ohio has won nine of 10 including three-straight to capture the MAC championship. The Bobcats downed Buffalo, 84-69, on Saturday (March 13) to capture the postseason conference tournament title. In its third game of the 2020-21 campaign, Ohio took Big Ten champion and Midwest Region No. 1 seed Illinois to the wire before dropping a 77-75 decision.

Meanwhile, UVA closed out the regular season with wins over Miami and Louisville to capture the ACC regular season championship. The Hoos earned the top seed in the ACC Tournament and defeated Syracuse, 72-69, in the quarterfinals before having to bow out because of the positive coronavirus test. This is the seventh straight NCAA Tournament bid for the Hoos, which is a school record.

Preparing for its NCAA first round matchup will be unique, as Virginia will watch a lot of video and have plenty of Zoom meetings because of quarantine. The players will have to take it upon themselves to keep fit. Individual basketball sessions are allowed, but the team won’t be able to practice together until Friday, which is when Coach Bennett hopes his team will be able to travel to Indianapolis. Once in Indy, players will have to present two negative COVID-19 tests 12 hours apart before they can play.

“The message will be, ‘Be thankful. Be hungry. Respect the situation, and let’s go’,” Bennett said.

“I think [the players are] certainly hungry and looking forward to that chance in Indianapolis.”

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