Best Virginia, one of the 24 teams in this year’s version of The Basketball Tournament, has withdrawn from the event after one of its members tested positive for COVID-19.
The team anchored by former West Virginia standouts, including Juwan Staten and Da’Sean Butler, has been replaced by Playing for Jimmy V, which features former Gonzaga star Josh Perkins and 2018 Final Four hero Marques Townes. Playing for Jimmy V will now face Herd That, a collection of former Marshall standouts, on July 5 in the event’s opening round.
Per TBT officials, Best Virginia had the opportunity to compete without the player who tested positive but instead chose to leave the competition. Best Virginia’s remaining players would have been required to undergo multiple tests and quarantine for 14 days as part of the TBT’s health and safety plan. Event officials said they learned about the positive test late last week.
“This is a safety-first event,” said Jon Mugar, founder and CEO of TBT, in a statement. “We’re disappointed for the Best Virginia players and fans that they won’t get an opportunity to compete in TBT 2020, and our thoughts are with the player for a speedy recovery. While the virus remains a persistent threat, we have confidence in our health and safety plan and the many safeguards we have put in place to run this year’s tournament.”
The TBT, which will air July 4-14 on ESPN and its family of networks, is a winner-take-all event for a $1 million prize that will commence at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, after local and state officials endorsed the event’s health and safety plan. That plan includes numerous tests for competitors, limits on team interaction and the elimination of any team after a player tests positive.
When teams arrive next week, they’ll be required to undergo multiple rounds of tests prior to competing in the event. Teams must take all of their belongings from their hotel to each game so they can exit the premises immediately after elimination.
This year’s event is anchored by Aaron Craft and Carmen’s Crew, which won last year’s championship and $2 million prize. But seven-time NBA All-Star Joe Johnson has joined Overseas Elite, which had won four consecutive TBT titles and $7 million in prize money prior to last year’s tournament.
“To be honest, I’m a little nervous,” Johnson told ESPN last week. “So many guys in one place and although there won’t be any fans, you just never know. But you won’t know unless you try. And TBT is trying it.”