The Basketball Tournament has removed a third team in three days — and the fourth team overall — from the winner-take-all $1 million tournament that starts Saturday, because of a positive coronavirus test.
Playing for Jimmy V, led by former Gonzaga star Josh Perkins, was initially on standby as a replacement team because of concerns about COVID-19 and only entered the field last month in place of Best Virginia, after the team of former West Virginia stars withdrew following a player’s positive test.
Peoria All-Stars, the last of the tournament’s four replacement teams, will replace Playing for Jimmy V. Earlier this week, Mid-American Unity and Jackson TN Underdawgs were also eliminated and replaced following positive tests.
The TBT will be the first nationally televised team basketball in the United States since the NBA suspended its season in March. It will air on ESPN’s family of networks.
“Although it’s difficult to release the teams that we have, we’re following our plan to control the spread of the virus within our bubble here in Columbus, (Ohio),” TBT founder and CEO Jon Mugar said in a statement. “We have administered nearly 1,400 tests with just 31 positive cases, only five of which were in Columbus. We continue to have confidence in our health and safety plan to reduce the risk for everyone involved with TBT 2020. It’s unfortunate Playing for Jimmy V won’t be able to continue in TBT 2020. We are hopeful the team member has a quick recovery.”
Two weeks prior to the event, Mugar said officials received 34 positive tests among nearly 350 people who were scheduled to fly to Columbus. He said the pre-event phase helped eliminate individuals who could have spread the virus if they had traveled to the tournament site. Since arriving in Columbus, the TBT has conducted 1,000 tests and received just five positive tests, all within the three teams that were eliminated this week. They’ve also conducted nearly 2,000 temperature checks thus far.
Event officials began the planning process with those four replacement teams because of concerns about the coronavirus, but 22 teams have now entered the event’s bubble to prepare for competition and they’ll have all 24 teams by Saturday.
The event’s health and safety plan demands that an entire team could have been eliminated prior to the event if a player had tested positive upon arriving in Columbus, home to “The Island,” a collection of venues — Nationwide Arena, a convention center and a nearby hotel — that will host the event that runs though July 14.
Once a player enters “The Island” after a negative test, he must then pass four more tests in five days before he is allowed to compete in his first game. If any player inside The Island fails a test during that mandatory five-day quarantine period, his entire team will be sent home.
Mugar told ESPN that the event’s health and safety plan is working. He said he’s confident the TBT will proceed.
“There is no predicting this situation,” he said. “But I’m very optimistic that we will crown a TBT champion.”