The Latest on the first round of the NCAA Tournament (all times Eastern):
Players from several NCAA Tournament teams took a knee during the playing of the national anthem before their first-round games.
Most of players on 16th-seeded Drexel knelt for the anthem before the Dragons played Illinois at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, and several Colgate players did the same before the they played third-seeded Arkansas at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
A few players also took a knee during the anthem before Florida-Virginia Tech at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
College athletes have not been shy about showing public support for social causes and even pushing back against perceived inequities by the NCAA. Earlier this week, several prominent men’s players got the hashtag #NotNCAAProperty trending to protest NCAA rules that ban athletes from earning money off their names, images and likenesses.
At the women’s tournament in San Antonio, players have pointed out how workout facilities have been far from equal to what has been provided to the men’s players.
Virginia has finally arrived in Indianapolis, the 68th and final team to do so.
The Cavaliers remained in Charlottesville after a positive COVID-19 test caused them to pull out of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament before a semifinal game against Georgia Tech last Thursday.
The Cavaliers have been testing daily since and were to practice at home in the morning for the first time since they paused team activities and then travel to the site of this year’s tournament. Their arrival puts them two sets of negative tests away from facing Ohio on Saturday night.
Virginia is technically still the reigning national champion because it won the title in 2019 and last year’s tournament was canceled because of the pandemic.
Florida will have to contend with Virginia Tech without sophomore forward Omar Payne.
The 6-foot-10 Payne is being held out of the seventh-seeded Gators’ first-round matchup with the 10th-seeded Hokies. The school said the decision was made by head coach Mike White.
Payne was ejected from the SEC Tournament quarterfinals early in the second half for a flagrant 2 foul against Tennessee’s John Fulkerson. The ejection came after a review by officials. Fulkerson suffered a concussion and facial fracture and was uncertain for Tennessee’s opener against Oregon State.
The SEC didn’t suspend Payne, who is averaging 3.7 points and 3.2 rebounds in about 16 minutes a game this season.
The Gators had issues with Virginia Tech’s size in the first half. The Hokies dominated in the paint for stretches while building a 33-27 lead.
The first game of the first round between No. 7 seed Florida and 10th-seeded Virginia Tech is underway at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse and a cloudless day outside has brought a significant amount of natural light into the arena.
Hinkle Fieldhouse has windows circling the concourse level of the arena and shades have been pulled down at the south end to try and help keep the sun out of the players’ eyes. But windows at the top of the arched-roof building are still allowing in sunlight.
It’s the first time Hinkle has hosted NCAA Tournament games since 1940.
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