The NCAA announced that Oregon would advance to the second round of the West Region, in which the No. 7 seed Ducks (20-6) will play No. 2 seed Iowa. The announcement of the no-contest came soon after Iowa had begun its first-round game with Grand Canyon at Indiana Farmers Coliseum, one of the four Indianapolis-based venues among six arenas hosting this all-Indiana tournament in a pandemic. VCU and Oregon were to follow the Iowa-Grand Canyon game after a break for a scrubbing in the rustic, 6,500-seat, 82-year-old home of the ECHL’s Indy Fuel, among other events.
“The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee has declared the VCU-Oregon game scheduled for Saturday night at Indiana Farmers Coliseum a no-contest because of COVID-19 protocols,” the NCAA’s statement read. “This decision was made in consultation with the Marion County Public Health Department. As a result, Oregon will advance to the next round of the tournament. The NCAA and the committee regret that VCU’s student-athletes and coaching staff will not be able to play in a tournament in which they earned the right to participate. Because of privacy issues we cannot provide further details.”
A “devastated” Mike Rhoades, VCU’s fourth-year coach, said the result stemmed from “multiple positive tests” within the program. VCU, the Richmond school with a strong basketball history that includes a 2011 Final Four berth, brought a 19-7 record to Indianapolis. It had finished second to St. Bonaventure in the Atlantic 10’s regular season and its postseason tournament. Just Saturday morning, its Twitter account announced, “The wait is over! Time for some March Madness!”
Instead, the Rams knew the same fate felt by Duke and Virginia in the ACC tournament, North Carolina A&T in the MEAC and Kansas in the Big 12. All had seen their conference tournaments end because of protocols related to the coronavirus.
“With the utmost disappointment, our men’s basketball program will head home from the NCAA Tournament,” VCU Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin said in a statement on the school’s website. “We are heartbroken for our student-athletes, coaches, campus community and fans. The members of our program did an excellent job following COVID-19 protocols all year so ending our season in this manner hurts even more.”
Rhoades, who had been a VCU assistant with Shaka Smart from 2009-14 before he left for Rice and before Smart left for Texas, and who had succeeded Will Wade after the latter left for LSU, said in the release: “We’ve been tested every day for the past three weeks, but within the past 48 hours we’ve received multiple positive tests. We are devastated for our players and coaches. It has been a dream for all of us to play in the NCAA Tournament. We appreciate the care of our doctors and administration this year, and all our efforts and attention will be put into our players at this time. Life isn’t always fair, but it’s about how you deal with it and move forward.”
Oregon Coach Dana Altman, who has guided the Ducks to a Final Four and two more Elite Eights in 11 seasons, said in a statement: “We hate to see a team’s season end this way after all the hard work these student-athletes have put in. This isn’t the way we wanted to advance, but we are excited to be moving on, and we will start our preparation for Monday’s game.”