Editor's note: This article was updated early Sunday morning to include Andy Katz's report that no teams contacted the selection committee to withdraw from consideration for the NCAA tournament.
Duke's season may not be over after all.
Despite a positive COVID-19 test forcing the Blue Devils to withdraw from the ACC tournament Thursday, with athletic director Kevin White indicating "this will end [the team's] 2020-21 season," ESPN's Rece Davis reported from a source Saturday afternoon that Duke could still play in this year's NCAA tournament if granted an at-large bid or selected as a COVID-replacement team.
NCAA rules dictate that to be eligible to play in this year's NCAA tournament, a team must have a minimum of five players that have all tested negative for COVID-19 for seven consecutive days before traveling to Indiana, where the entire 2021 NCAA tournament will be played. As The News and Observer's Steve Wiseman indicated Saturday morning, because Duke players have been tested for COVID-19 daily since the fall, players quarantining due to contact tracing have to do so for only seven days (rather than the maximum of 10 days) given they continue to test negative for COVID-19 and don't show symptoms for the virus.
Wiseman said that Duke's players and coaches entered quarantine Thursday morning. With the First Four of the NCAA Tournament beginning at 4 p.m. this upcoming Thursday and the remainder of the first round beginning the following day at 12 p.m., that could leave enough time for the Blue Devils to play given they are selected.
Teams had until Saturday night at 11 p.m. to inform the selection committee if they didn't expect to be able to meet NCAA medical protocols to be able to play in the tournament. Wiseman said that team spokesman Jon Jackson declined to comment regarding whether Duke planned to inform the selection committee that it was unavailable for the NCAA tournament. When asked Thursday if Duke had pulled itself out of consideration for the NCAA tournament, team spokesman Mike DeGeorge told The Chronicle that "we’re continuing to evaluate any number of possible variables—the most significant being that the team is in quarantine until the middle of next week."
However, NCAA.com reporter Andy Katz reported early Sunday morning that no teams contacted the selection committee to withdraw from consideration for the NCAA tournament, meaning the Blue Devils can still be granted an at-large bid or be chosen as a COVID-replacement team.
ESPN's Joe Lunardi currently has the Blue Devils as one of the first eight teams to miss the tournament in his latest projections. It would appear unlikely Duke receives an at-large bid, though Duke could also sneak its way into the NCAA tournament as a COVID-replacement team. The NCAA plans to designate the top four teams that don't make it into the original 68-team field as ones who could replace squads who have to drop out between Selection Sunday and Tuesday at 6 p.m.
In any case, it seems that not all hope is lost regarding the Blue Devils' 26-year NCAA tournament streak just yet.
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