The University of Virginia’s men’s basketball team, the 2019 national champion, pulled out of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament on Friday after someone inside the program tested positive for the coronavirus.
Virginia’s withdrawal was the second in 24 hours for the conference tournament — Duke dropped out on Thursday — because of the virus. And it immediately put into doubt whether Virginia (18-6) will be able to compete in the N.C.A.A. tournament, which is scheduled to begin next week.
Tony Bennett, Virginia’s coach, said in a statement Friday that the university was “exhausting all options to participate” next week.
“We went from an exhilarating game-winning shot to beat Syracuse to a gut punch regarding the positive Covid-19 test within our program,” Bennett said. “I’m hurting for our players, especially our seniors. I told our young men they have every reason to be disappointed, but it is still very important how they choose to respond.”
With the cancellation of Friday’s A.C.C. semifinal matchup with Virginia, Georgia Tech automatically advanced to the conference championship game.
On Friday afternoon, hours after the A.C.C. announced Virginia’s positive test, no one would definitively say whether the Cavaliers’ season would end early — without a chance to repeat as national champions. They won the tournament in 2019, when it was last played before its pandemic-prompted cancellation in 2020.
Although Duke has long been a national power, and although its exit from the A.C.C. tournament on Thursday unnerved the sport, Virginia’s troubles may have much larger implications for the course toward the crowning of a champion early next month.
While the Blue Devils were 13-11 and unlikely to reach this year’s national tournament, Virginia has been a defensive powerhouse and a scoring juggernaut of accurate shooting. It was seeded first in the A.C.C. tournament, and could be among the highest seeds in the N.C.A.A. tournament field, which will be announced on Sunday evening.
But for all of its successes this season, Virginia struggled with the virus in December, when it paused team activities for 10 days.