Officials of the 2K Empire Classic announced Monday that Rhode Island officially has replaced No. 2 Baylor in the tournament field, joining No. 3 Villanova, No. 18 Arizona State, and Boston College.
The Bears pulled out Monday after the Sun Devils, their scheduled opponent in the opening round Wednesday night at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., threatened to withdraw because of health concerns after Baylor coach Scott Drew announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Drew said the rest of his traveling party tested negative Friday and Sunday and would be coached by assistant Jerome Tang, but chose not to attend.
Villanova will play Boston College in the nightcap of the Wednesday night doubleheader, with Rhode Island taking on Arizona State in the first game. The winners of each game will meet Thursday night for the championship, and the losers will play in the consolation game.
The Rams are led by senior guard Fatts Russell, a former Imhotep Charter star who led his team in scoring (18.8 points per game) and assists (4.6 per game) last season.
Villanova has revised its policy on attendance for 2020-21 men’s and women’s basketball games at Finneran Pavilion in the wake of the pandemic, announcing that ticket distribution will be limited to members of the families of participating players.
“The health and safety of our entire community continues to drive each and every decision at Villanova,” athletic director Mark Jackson said. “Based on current conditions, we felt it was in everyone’s best interest to limit access to games for the time being.”
Jackson said the situation will continue to be monitored and the ticketing policy could be adjusted later in the season.