January 14, 2021 

Virginia cancels remainder of women’s basketball season

The Cavaliers are the second ACC team to do so

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Virginia head coach Tina Thompson watches her team face UNC on Jan. 30, 2020, at Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill, N.C. (Mitchell Northam / The Next)

The women’s basketball team at the University of Virginia has not played a game in more than a month, last taking the court on Dec. 13. The Cavaliers had postponed six straight games due to the team’s COVID-19 protocols after a member in the team tested positive.

Folks wondering when the ‘Hoos might play again got an answer Thursday afternoon: Not this season.

Virginia announced that it was canceling the remainder of its 2020-2021 women’s basketball schedule “due to health and safety concerns.”

“The health and safety of our student-athletes will always be the number one priority,” head coach Tina Thompson said in a statement. “We will continue to focus on their overall well-being and prepare to resume competition in the fall.”

The Cavaliers are the second ACC team to cancel their season this year, following the Duke Blue Devils — which did so on Christmas Day. The entire Ivy League, a few MEAC schools, CSUN, SMU, and Dixie State have also canceled. Virginia and Duke are the only Power 5 programs to opt-out.

According to Virginia’s press release, the Cavaliers will continue to play all other varsity sports. A source close to the situation told The Next that it was a “team decision” to cancel the women’s basketball season.

A statement from the athletics department read: “The decision was made with the overall health and safety of the student-athletes and staff in mind… Injuries have also left the Cavaliers with a depleted roster impacting the ability to safely practice and compete.”

Indeed, Virginia has had roster issues unrelated to COVID-19. Because of several injuries, they didn’t have enough players to play a Dec. 6 game against George Washington. Just seven Virginia players took the floor in double-digit ACC losses to Clemson and Florida State. It was a bad look.

When Virginia was on the court this season, they struggled mightily. The ‘Hoos did not shoot, defend, or rebound at an ACC level whatsoever. Three of their five defeats were suffered by deficits of at least 16 points. According to Her Hoop Stats, as of Thursday, the 0-5 Cavaliers were 297th in the country in net rating (-18.6), 311th in offensive rating (76.1), 267th in field goal percentage (36.4%), 318th in rebounds per game (31.8) and 199th in opponent effective field goal percentage (46.6%).

It became easy to wonder: Why was Virginia playing basketball this season, amid the pandemic, when it was apparent that the Cavaliers simply did not have the roster makeup that is necessary to compete in the ACC?

The science says it’s not a good idea to play basketball right now. The CDC says players should stay six feet away from each other, but it’s tough to play decent defense that way. Health experts across the country have warned against playing basketball. One doctor told the Oregonian that basketball was the highest risk sport during the pandemic.

Virginia is one of the few teams to conclude that the risks outweigh the rewards.

“We have the pleasure of coaching a very resilient group of young women who have fought through injuries, a strict COVID-19 protocol, and all the mental battles that come with it,” Thompson said. “So, the decision to end our season mid-stream comes with great difficulty. As difficult as it is to end our season in this manner, it is a necessary one.”

The cancelation of the season marks the end of Thompson’s third season as the head coach of the Cavaliers. The Naismith Memorial and Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer has a 25-41 record leading the team.

Virginia should return the majority of its roster next season as there are just two seniors on it; a pair of graduate students in Tihana Stojsavljevic and Emily Maupin.

Because the ACC has had two teams cancel its seasons, a rejiggering of the schedule might be necessary for the conference. A source close to the ACC said that the conference is working on “adjusting games.” An announcement on those changes is expected soon.

N.C. State and Syracuse are among the ACC teams that remain in COVID-19 protocols. Syracuse is scheduled to play Sunday at home vs. Miami.

Written by Mitchell Northam

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