Positive COVID test ends Duke’s season

Duke’s Mark Williams pulls in one of his 19 rebounds during the the Blue Devils 70-56 victory Wednesday over Louisville in the second round of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro. (Photo courtesy of the ACC)

For the second straight year, Duke’s basketball season will come to a premature end at the ACC Tournament in Greensboro.

Multiple media members, including SI’s Pat Forde, have confirmed that Duke has a positive test in the program and will not play in Thursday’s ACC Tournament quarterfinal against Florida State. The ACC also sent out a release confirming the news. That essentially ends Duke’s season. The Blue Devils will not play in the NIT or NCAA Tournament.

That ends a streak of 24 straight NCAA Tournament appearances for Duke, the third longest streak in basketball history.

A statement from the ACC announced the official postponement of the game, saying, “The postponement follows a positive test subsequent quarantining and contact tracing within the Duke men’s basketball program.”

Florida State will advance to the semifinals.

The outcome is ironic, considering that Duke had one of the strictest quarantine protocols in college basketball this season. Home games at Cameron Indoor Stadium were completely closed, with family members and the media kept out, even after the state of North Carolina loosened restrictions late in the season allowing a limited number of fans to attend indoor arena events.

The Blue Devils also opted not to stay in Greensboro for the tournament, commuting from Durham each day.

Duke finishes its season at 13-11, 9-9 in the ACC and on a two-game winning streak after beating Boston College and Louisville to open the ACC Tournament. Duke won the 2019 ACC Tournament and had not played when last year’s tourney was cancelled prior to the quarterfinals.

In a release from the school, athletic director Kevin White said, “Unfortunately, after going an entire season with no positive COVID-19 tests among our men’s basketball student-athletes and coaching staff, one member of our program tested positive following Wednesday’s ACC Tournament game in Greensboro. After working with our medical professionals and following Duke and ACC Medical Advisory Group health, safety, and contact tracing protocols, the student-athletes on our team are now in quarantine. Since last March when the pandemic started, we have listened to our medical experts and always put safety at the forefront of any determinations regarding competition. As a result, this will end our 2020-21 season. We wish every team still playing college basketball good health and the very best during the next few weeks.”

Coach Mike Krzyzewski said, “While our season was different than any other that I can remember, I loved the 2020-21 Duke Basketball team and was honored to be their coach. We have not asked more of any team in our history, and they deserve enormous credit for handling everything like the outstanding young men they are. I feel deeply for our players, who have done a terrific job all season in taking care of each other and the team.  I am extremely proud of their collective attitudes and effort, which could not have been stronger. We are disappointed we cannot keep fighting together as a group after two outstanding days in Greensboro. This season was a challenge for every team across the country and as we have seen over and over, this global pandemic is very cruel and is not yet over.  As many safeguards as we implemented, no one is immune to this terrible virus.”