Richmond Times-Dispatch

VCU’s first two games are lost

Tennessee event is canceled; Rams to play in South Dakota

- BYWAYNE EPPS JR.

When it comes to the rapidly changing tightrope the sport of college basketball is striding as the start of the season approaches, Monday afternoon’s sequence was a prime example.

Less than an hour after VCU coachMike Rhoades finished his first weekly Zoom press conference of the year — during which he discussed where his team stood heading into an expected trip for two games at Tennessee and joked about bringing early Thanksgivi­ng leftovers on the trip — the Volunteers announced they had multiple positive COVID-19 tests within their program. The list included coach Rick Barnes.

Then, about2½ hours later, Tennessee announced that the entire multiteam event— The Volunteer Classic— was canceled because of contact tracing. It was set to be a threeteam event, with VCU, the 12th-ranked Volunteers and Charlotte. The Rams will lose their Thursday season opener against Charlotte and a Friday game against Tennessee.

It didn’t take long for VCU to find a replacemen­t. VCU landed a spot in the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls, S.D., replacing

Wichita State. The swap was first reported by CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein. Wichita State bowed out due to positive COVID-19 tests. The Rams will play three games in three days, starting against Utah State on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. in a game that will be broadcast on ESPN2.

Tennessee, meanwhile, paused all team activities as a result of the positive tests. The positives were revealed through routine testing, which is now occurring three times a week.

Monday’s cancellati­on marks the second multiteam event VCU has lost this offseason. The Rams were originally supposed to play in the Charleston

Classic on Nov. 19, Nov. 20 and Nov. 22. Tennessee and Penn State were also going to be part of that event.

It morphed into what was set to be a four-team event at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., — an event in which Tennessee, Penn State and Charlotte were involved, according to Rothstein, But that was canceled on

Oct. 26, wiping out three games.

Now VCU is two games short again. The program had nine nonconfere­nce contests scheduled, which, paired with the 18-game Atlantic 10 schedule, gave the Rams the NCAA maximum of 27 games this season.

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