College hoops braces for rocky COVID-19 start, NCAA wants to play

Jay Wright’s greatest concern isn’t how to juggle minutes. It’s not who to begin. It’s not that day’s observe bundle, recruiting targets or damage points. It’s not even in regards to the looming challenges within the Big East.

It’s assessments — however not exams taken within the classroom. It’s ensuring COVID-19 hasn’t returned to his program after beforehand infecting a number of gamers.

“I’ll be honest, I lay in bed at night thinking about it,” the Villanova coach mentioned.

It’s a fear most coaches, directors and NCAA higher-ups share. College basketball is slated to tip off Wednesday with a full slate of video games, and as a substitute of pleasure over a brand new season, there’s concern over how lengthy it is going to final.

The novel coronavirus pandemic ended final season prematurely, forcing the primary cancellation of March Madness, and now school basketball is again. But so is overwhelming uncertainty, as constructive instances have risen nationwide and have begun to unfold by means of the game.

“The words that come to mind are disruptive, uncertain, crazy, unusual, unprecedented and hopefully won’t happen again,” Big East commissioner Val Ackerman advised The Post. “Everybody is resigned to all those outcomes.”

Jay WrightAP

Various applications are at the moment in a 14-day pause simply days earlier than a brand new season begins, as an NCAA guideline suggests. If a “Tier 1” particular person — a participant, coach, supervisor or employees member — assessments constructive, everybody is predicted to quarantine for two weeks. Six Big East groups have had exercises interrupted and three — Seton Hall, DePaul and Creighton — are at the moment in quarantine. So is Syracuse, practically half of the MAAC, together with UMass and St. Bonaventure. The Ivy League canceled winter sports activities, and Bethune-Cookman and Maryland Eastern Shore aren’t enjoying basketball, both. A majority of non-conference tournaments have been canceled. Others have had to scramble to create fully new fields of groups and transfer places. ESPN was trying to create a bubble at Disney’s Wide World of Sports to host a collection of tournaments, however that fell aside.

“It’s nowhere near quote-unquote normal,” St. John’s athletic director Mike Cragg mentioned in a cellphone interview. “It’s going to be full of challenges.”

Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard has described the state of scheduling as a “s–tshow.” Iona College’s Rick Pitino believes the NCAA ought to push again the season till March, play solely league video games and host the event in May. St. John’s sophomore Julian Champagnie mentioned will probably be a “circus” due to the uncertainty of every single day.

“From this year, I don’t really expect a whole lot,” Champagnie mentioned. “I expect to play, but I know there are going to be some hiccups.”

NCAA senior vice chairman of basketball Dan Gavitt mentioned the plan stays to forge forward, with the understanding there will probably be disruptions, postponements and cancellations. The NCAA appears decided to crown a champion, already asserting plans to host the event in a single metropolis as a substitute of quite a few websites across the nation. It wouldn’t use the world bubble — Gavitt has referred to as it a “controlled environment” — however that looks like semantics. Players and groups is not going to be allowed to depart this “controlled environment” upon getting into it till they’re eradicated.

“It’s only not happened once,” Gavitt mentioned, referring to the NCAA Tournament. “Under my watch and with the committee that’s working on it, we’re going to do anything and everything we can in a safe and responsible way to make sure that was the only time in our history, and it won’t be repeated.”

Gavitt acknowledged there are dangers, but in addition burdened that conferences are testing 3 times per week, there’s solely a minimal of 13 video games to be eligible for the event, and the NCAA is providing one other 12 months of eligibility for student-athletes to make up for what is predicted to be a haphazard season.

“The alternative is we just don’t play at all,” Gavitt mentioned, including, “We owe it to the players to give them a chance [to play].”

Getting to March will probably be a tough job, nonetheless, contemplating what one constructive check can do to a program. Most conferences are planning on journey and never bubbles, and hoping the absence of scholars on campus over the subsequent two months will reduce the unfold of the virus.

One mid-major coach whose program only recently returned from a 14-day pause mentioned he believes if this had been to occur in-season, it will take “at minimum” three weeks to be prepared to play a sport once more. Another mid-major coach, whose crew continues to be in quarantine and has been there for three weeks, mentioned he thinks a month can be the optimum time, contemplating gamers actually can’t do a lot by way of conditioning and understanding for the 2 weeks of quarantine.

Big East
Val AckermanPaul J. Bereswill

After the 2 weeks are up and gamers are cleared with destructive assessments, those who beforehand had examined constructive can’t simply return to observe. They have to go an assortment of assessments on their coronary heart and endure an MRI examination to be cleared. For occasion, the primary coach mentioned, on the primary few days of observe for a participant who examined constructive, he couldn’t do full-court exercises with teammates.

“It’s so hard to maintain the 100 percent rate [of being COVID-19 free],” the coach mentioned.

It’s clear, mere days earlier than the season, this will probably be a really completely different one. Games will function restricted crowds, if any in any respect. Schedules will ceaselessly change. Teams will probably be sidelined for a number of weeks at a time. But the plan for everybody concerned is to have a season. There will probably be video games on Wednesday, scattershot and as unusual as they could be, with the hope that this March will present Madness of the proper.

“A good ending,” Ackerman mentioned, “is more important or more impactful than a rocky start.”


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