After a long 24 hours, here’s a rundown of Baylor basketball’s scheduling.
The Bears are not playing in the Empire Classic. Scott Drew tested positive on Friday. Per Matt Norlander of CBS, the Bears received that result on Saturday.
Baylor conducted a second series of tests on Sunday. In both their Friday and Sunday batch, nobody else in the program had a positive test. That marked 12 straight weeks of negative tests for everyone else in the program.
After Baylor made that announcement, Arizona State got nervous and Jeff Goodman reported, they were not going to play Baylor. Dana O’Neil of The Athletic reported Villanova did not want to play Baylor either. It’s unclear if the coaching staff or someone else at the universities made those decisions.
With their testing protocol and attention to distancing and masking, the Bears were prepared to play in the Empire Classic. Scott Drew and the coaching staff wear masks. They feel they’ve done an excellent job distancing. This is not what happens in football games where a coach is shouting at his players maskless for hours. The Bears take the protocols very seriously. There’s a good chance Drew is the only person that will test positive.
If Baylor had played in the Empire Classic, they would have had five negative tests in six days for everyone else in the program. The Bears were set to have Jerome Tang coach the two games. Baylor had a press conference scheduled for noon on Tuesday to reveal their testing strategy and lay out their plans for the tournament.
Obviously the virus carries significant risks for some, especially those that are older or have certain preexisting conditions. The challenge for Arizona State and Villanova is asking if Baylor’s situation—one where everyone on the team tests negative five times in six days, and where the only positive is someone that distanced and wore a mask—makes playing impossible, then how can you have a season? If we did serious contact tracing, nearly every program, which often contains 25 folks between players, coaches, graduate students and managers, will have someone in contact with a COVID-19 positive.
Maybe those interactions justify not having a season. Or maybe they warrant having a bubble. But every major basketball team elected to play basketball during this pandemic. I support that decision; we’re all trying to balance multiple factors. And once you decide to play in a pandemic, you have to figure out what situation makes playing impossible. If it’s one positive for anyone in a program, then we’re going to have a tough time getting too many games, especially as the virus spreads.
The Bears are still scheduled to play Seton Hall on Sunday. It’s unclear if the Pirates will want to play Baylor. After that, Baylor would play Illinois at 9:00 P.M. on Wednesday December 2nd. That game would be 11 days after Drew’s positive test, and if nobody else tests positive in that window, I’d be surprised if the Illini refused to play that one. The Bears are then scheduled to meet Gonzaga on Saturday the 5th. That game would be 14 days after Drew’s positive test, and if nobody else tests positive, I think that game will be played.
Baylor, like most programs, has had to shuffle the schedule during the year. Hopefully Baylor can find two quality opponents to replace Arizona State and Villanova. Neither team is quite as good as Baylor, but the Wildcats are a top three team. While the Bears were heavy favorites against a worse Arizona State squad (though still a top 25 quality team), they would have had a real challenge and very good opportunity against Villanova. Maybe Tennessee tries to add another game since they had several positive tests and had to cancel their opening game.
Despite the setback with Baylor’s opening week, I remain adamant we’ll have an NCAA Tournament. The NCAA announced plans to have the tournament in one location (probably Indianapolis). They could probably even bubble the players in a hotel with testing. There’s too much money involved to not play that event for two straight years. But until March, or whenever we get an NCAA Tournament, teams will probably cancel games. Hopefully we get some clarity about what is sufficient to play. Until then, we’ll keep previewing games that may never occur.