No. 11 Kansas withdraws from Big 12 tourney due to COVID-19

National Sports
Bill Self

Kansas head coach Bill Self watches player introductions before an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma in the quarterfinal round of the Big 12 men’s tournament in Kansas City, Mo., Thursday, March 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas withdrew from the Big 12 Tournament on Friday after a positive COVID-19 test within the men’s basketball program, becoming the third major team to have its conference postseason come to an end beceause of the coronavirus.

The development sent No. 13 Texas into the championship game against No. 2 Baylor or No. 12 Oklahoma State. It came only hours after No. 16 Virginia pulled out of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament semifinal because of a positive test.

The No. 11 Jayhawks learned earlier this week they would be without center David McCormack and backup forward Tristan Enaruna due to COVID-19 protocols. The tournament’s second seed beat No. 25 Oklahoma 69-62 in the quarterfinals without them on Thursday night and were due to play the Longhorns in the semifinal round.

Kansas had gone the entire season without an outbreak that caused it to cancel or postpone a game.

“Obviously we are disappointed and our players are disappointed that they can’t continue to compete for the Big 12 championship,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said in a statement.

“We have followed daily testing and additional protocols that have been set up for us,” Self added. “Unfortunately we caught a bad break at the wrong time. I look forward to preparing my team in probably a unique way for the NCAA Tournament.”

It’s unclear whether the positive test came from a player or staff member. Kansas would need to return seven consecutive days of negative tests that produce at least five eligible players to participate in the first round of the tournament that opens March 19 — just a week away.

It remained to be seen whether the Longhorns will return a positive test before the Big 12 title game.

On Thursday, perennial power Duke pulled out of the ACC Tournament after a pair of wins because of a positive test. The Blue Devils called off their season, cementing an end to their streak of 24 consecutive NCAA tourney appearances.

A day later, defending national champion Virginia also bowed out of the ACC Tournament in what Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett called a “gut punch.” Several smaller schools, including Florida International and North Carolina A&T, also have withdrawn from tournaments.

“I’m hurting for our players, especially our seniors,” Bennett said in a statement. “We are exhausting all options to participate in the NCAA Tournament.”

The NCAA has put contingency plans in place should a team be unable to participate in its tournament beginning next week in Indiana. The last four at-large teams missing the field will be designated as replacement teams and put in the bracket in place of any team from a multi-bid conference that withdraws before their opening game.

Once games begin, though, there will be no replacements and the opponent will automatically advance to the next round.

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