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Two days before season opens, COVID-19 positives force college basketball programs to cancel

Cassandra Negley
·Writer
·5-min read

Two days before the scheduled start to its season, college basketball is experiencing an onslaught of cancellations and positive COVID-19 tests. By 1 p.m. ET on Monday, programs around the country were canceling season openers due to positive tests, and in some cases, completely opting out of the season.

It’s proving how difficult it will be for the sport to reach March Madness and underscores the potential of large outbreaks just as the Centers for Disease Control is advising people not to travel.

UConn women shut down start of season after positive test

FILE- In this March 9, 2020, file photo, Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma, center, watches play at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Cincinnati in the American Athletic Conference tournament finals at Mohegan Sun Arena, Monday, in Uncasville, Conn. Auriemma and UConn are back home in the Big East sitting in a familiar spot — atop the preseason poll. The Huskies, who returned to the conference after seven years in the American, were the unanimous choice to win the league the Big East announced Thursday, Ocrt. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)
UConn's first four games will be impacted by the quarantine. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

The UConn women’s basketball program announced Monday evening that it is shutting down the start of its season after someone in the program tested positive for COVID-19. The person who tested positive has not self-identified.

Players, coaches and staff in close contact will go into quarantine for two weeks as a result.

“Per university protocol, team activities will remain on hold for at least 14 days and will resume when it is deemed safe by medical professionals,” a UConn statement reads.

The delayed start will result in the postponement or cancellation of four games, including a top-five matchup with No. 5 Louisville on Dec. 4. The No. 3 Huskies were slated to start their season Saturday against Quinnipiac. A Nov. 29 game against Maine and a Dec. 6 game against Seton Hall are also impacted by the quarantine.

The program didn’t rule out rescheduling any or all of the games, noting that schedule adjustments will be announced at a future date.

Tennessee’s Rick Barnes tests positive

Rick Barnes in the huddle.
Tennessee coach Rick Barnes has tested positive for COVID-19, the team said. (Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Tennessee men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes and “multiple” other Tier 1 personnel tested positive for COVID-19, the school announced Monday. The tests are from Sunday afternoon, and the team will be retested Monday. They have paused all activities.

The results mean the No. 14 Volunteers could miss the first four games of their season. They open against Charlotte in The Volunteer Classic on Wednesday and play VCU on Friday. A decision on those games is expected Tuesday, per the school.

If the tests are confirmed positive, it would mean a longer isolation period that would cut into a top-20 matchup. Tennessee is scheduled to play No. 1 Gonzaga on Dec. 2 and Notre Dame on Dec. 4.

It is the third SEC program to pause activities, joining Ole Miss and Florida. Ole Miss canceled its first four games because of an outbreak and is not set to resume until Dec. 7.

Baylor men’s team pulls out of Mohegan Sun event

No. 2 Baylor was scheduled to play No. 18 Arizona State in a premier season-opening matchup on Wednesday, but the Bears have pulled out of the 2020 Empire Classic, per CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein.

It came after coach Scott Drew tested positive. When he announced it Sunday, Baylor still intended to play in the tournament. Arizona State then reportedly said it would not participate, but has since changed course with Baylor out, per Rothstein. A fourth team will be determined.

Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut is serving as a modified bubble to host 30 college teams and 40 games over 11 days of action that begin Wednesday. Teams have been pulling out of the events with news of positive tests of their own and of others.

Florida withdrew from its events after members of its program tested positive. It included a matchup against No. 4 Virginia.

Duke, Arizona cancel men’s season openers

Duke and Arizona both announced their season openers were canceled on Monday morning.

The Blue Devils were to play Gardner-Webber, but nixed plans after news of a positive test within the Gardner-Webber team, the school said.

Arizona has also reportedly canceled its season opener after a positive on the Northern Arizona team, per Jeff Goodman of Stadium.

Florida A&M women opt out of season

The Florida A&M women’s basketball team said it is opting out of the season because of COVID-19 concerns.

“The Rattlers began preseason camp with a limited number of players on the roster,” the team wrote in a release. “With the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, it has been determined that moving forward would not be feasible.”

They join the entire Ivy League and the Cal-State Northridge women’s team in canceling the season. The Rattlers were to play Florida State on Wednesday.

How will college hoops hold a season?

The NCAA pushed back the men’s and women’s basketball start date from Nov. 10 to Nov. 25 with certain stipulations as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in the United States. The number of new cases has soared in recent weeks and is expected to get worse with the Thanksgiving holiday.

Schools have attempted to lessen the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks by designing regional schedules. The NCAA has limited the number of non-conference games and places like Mohegan Sun are trying to keep large bubbles intact for relatively short lengths of games.

College football has also experienced a plethora of COVID-19 positives recently and ensuing cancellations.

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