Navy men's basketball pulls out of consideration for NIT because of a positive COVID test
By BILL WAGNER | The Capital, Annapolis, Md. | Published: March 15, 2021
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Tribune News Service) — Navy men's basketball fans do not need to waste their time watching the selection show announcing the 16 at-large bids to the National Invitation Tournament.
That's because the Midshipmen have already pulled out of consideration for a berth.
Coach Ed DeChellis told The Capital on Sunday night that Navy's season is over because of a positive COVID-19 test involving a Tier 1 individual within the program.
Spokesman Scott Strasemeier said the Navy athletic department informed NIT organizers late last week that its men's basketball team would be unable to participate.
Patriot League protocols left it up to each member institution about how to handle a positive COVID test.
At Navy, a positive test within men's or women's basketball means a shutdown for a minimum of 10 days. There is then a return to play protocol that requires teams to have a certain number of practices before competing against an opponent.
DeChellis said Navy men's basketball would not have completed that required pause in time to play a first-round NIT game next Wednesday or Thursday.
"When you consider the protocols and count the days, the math just doesn't work. We didn't have enough time," he said.
That brings a disappointing end to an otherwise successful season for Navy, which posted a 15-3 record and earned the top seed for the Patriot League tournament. The Midshipmen finished in first place with a 12-1 Patriot League record and thought they had captured their first regular season championship since 2000.
However, Patriot League officials later clarified there was no regular season champion this season because all 10 member schools did not play each other because of a unique schedule created to combat coronavirus.
The Midshipmen were ultimately done in by the virus.
Two starters, senior captain and leading scorer Cam Davis along with forward Richard Njoku, were unable to play in the Patriot League tournament opener as Navy was upset by ninth-seeded Loyola Maryland, 76-68, in the quarterfinals.
Afterward, DeChellis expressed a desire to compete in the NIT and stated his case as to why the Mids were deserving. However, later the following week another positive test within the program put a sudden end to the season.
"The last two weeks have been very, very frustrating. COVID got us. Timing is everything and the virus hit us at the wrong time," DeChellis said. "We were at the wrong place at the wrong time at the end of the season. It's just a shame because these kids worked really hard to get to this point."
Navy's hopes for one of the 16 at-large berths seemingly received a big boost over the weekend.
That's because the Midshipmen's biggest win of the season looked a lot better after what happened in the Big East tournament.
Georgetown, which entered the postseason with a losing record, upset its way to the Big East championship and earned an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. The eighth-seeded Hoyas (13-12) won four straight games, knocking off top-seeded Villanova in the quarterfinals and No. 2 seed Creighton in the final.
Navy beat Georgetown, 78-71, at McDonough Arena on Dec. 1 — making a major statement by beating a Big East opponent on the road for the first time since 1986.
Georgetown became the second school that lost to Navy this season to earn an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. Navy also beat Mount St. Mary's, which captured the Northeast Conference tournament title.
"We had a great season and did great things. We beat two teams that are going to the NCAA tournament and only lost three games. There are a lot of things to be positive about," DeChellis said.
However, DeChellis acknowledged it would have been tough for a Patriot League program to earn an invitation to the NIT in a unique year when there is only a 16-team bracket.
"If they were taking 32 teams, I would have felt pretty good about it. However, with a 16-team field it would have been very difficult for us to get in," he said.
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