COVID-19 outbreaks put damper on start of college basketball season

Sports

In this Feb. 29, 2020, file photo, Iowa’s Luka Garza (55) dunks the ball as Penn State’s Myles Dread (2) looks on during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Cliff Jette, File)

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — More than eight months after the NCAA made the unprecedented decision to cancel the college basketball season, teams across the country will once again take to the court on Wednesday.

It’s more than half a year later, but the NCAA and various early-season tournaments still find themselves in the same position they were back in March.

Nearly every team scheduled to play in the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic in South Dakota has pulled out due to COVID-19 related issues. It’s the same story for the 2K Empire Classic in Connecticut.

Arizona State University is flying cross-country without even knowing who their opponent will be after Baylor University was forced to withdraw from the tournament following head coach Scott Drew’s positive coronavirus test.

Wednesday is the official start of the 2020-21 men’s college basketball season. It tips off as the number of new coronavirus cases across America has grown to more than 190,000 a day.

As of Tuesday morning, nineteen games have already been canceled or postponed.

Teams are expected to play truncated schedules, with many being cut from 31 to 27 or 25 games.

Testing protocols are in place and, as the college football season has shown with the cancellation of a handful of games every weekend, all participants will need to be able to adjust on the fly.

“Those thoughts creep in every day,” Florida coach Mike White said. “I wonder how many games I’ll miss this year. I wonder how many games we’ll have our five starters out there, 12 guys available.”

Still, fans, players and coaches are all hoping that March Madness takes place this year. Its cancellation eight months ago cost the NCAA around $375 million.

The conference is already making plans for an adjusted tournament, to be held in one geographic location to mitigate the risks of COVID-19. The NCAA is in talks with Indianapolis to be its host city.

“We don’t know a lot of things,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “But we know we’re going to have March Madness. We know we’re going to have a regular season. We just don’t know much about both — and it’s a hell of a way to run a railroad.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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