The college basketball season is nearing completion and the NCAA tournament, affectionately known as March Madness, is on the horizon. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is still an obstacle in the way of every team’s path toward the finish line.
This past week, the USF men’s basketball team became one of the latest programs to have their season affected by the pandemic. On Jan. 26, the Dons announced that they were pausing all team-related activities “due to positive cases from COVID-19 testing and related contact tracing,” according to a press release.
The positive COVID cases led to the postponement of a three-game road trip which would have seen the Dons face off against the Brigham Young University Cougars Jan. 30, the Pacific University Tigers Feb. 4, and the Pepperdine University Waves Feb. 6.
In an email to the Foghorn, the USF Athletics Department said, “We learned the unfortunate news last Tuesday when our men’s basketball program was paused for two weeks, due to COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. Our game last Saturday at BYU, and both of this week’s scheduled matchups, are postponed. The men’s next scheduled game is Tuesday, Feb. 9, at home against Pepperdine.” They concluded: “We are all sending wishes of safety and wellness to our student-athletes and coaching staff affected by the pause.”
Of the Dons’ postponed games, two contests were set to be nationally televised. The Dons’ Jan. 30 game was scheduled to be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network, and the Dons’ Feb. 6 game was set to air on ESPN2, part of an installment of 16 West Coast Conference (WCC) games scheduled to air on the ESPN family of networks throughout the college basketball season.
In a tweet on their men’s and women’s basketball Twitter account, @WCCHoops (WCC Hoops), the WCC said, “The West Coast Conference will work with all programs to find alternate dates for the affected contests.” Excluding the postponed games, the Dons have five games left to play in the season. Conference play concludes Feb. 27, and the postseason WCC tournament is scheduled to start five days later on March 4 in Las Vegas.
The Dons were not the only WCC team to temporarily suspend all team-related activities. On the same day the Dons issued their announcement, the Santa Clara University Broncos, a Bay Area neighbor, also paused all team-related activities due to testing and contact tracing. This move came on the heels of Santa Clara County health officials rescinding a ban on the playing and practicing of college and professional teams. Prior to the rescindment, the Broncos temporarily played their games in nearby Santa Cruz, Calif.
Elsewhere in the country, other Jesuit colleges like the Saint Louis University Billikens are facing their second postponement of the season. The Billikens’ first suspension of their basketball program lasted from Dec. 30-Jan. 20. During that time, the University’s athletic department postponed six games due to positive COVID-19 tests. The Billikens only played one game on Jan. 26 before postponing their next game three days later due to more positive COVID-19 tests.
At the time of writing, the Dons are in fourth place in the WCC standings with key matchups against the Gonzaga University Bulldogs and the Santa Clara University Broncos in the coming weeks.