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The Bounce: So Your Team has COVID-19

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Come for the Criticism of the Big East, stay for the Sugar Bears

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at Baylor Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the historic nature of Baylor’s non-conference schedule. Well, that’s all out the window.

As you’ve undoubtedly heard, Baylor’s games against Arizona State and Seton Hall have been cancelled, and the presumptive game against Villanova has also been presumptively cancelled. Well, “cancelled” isn’t the right term. After hearing of a reported case of COVID in Baylor’s program, those teams refused to play games against the Bears. That would be well and good, if the reported case had not been Scott Drew - who purportedly distanced and wore a mask when in Baylor facilities - and if Baylor’s team would not have had five negative tests in six days by the time the Arizona State game would have been played.

The point made by our esteemed Editor-in-Chief Kendall Kaut is a good one: once you decide to play in a pandemic, you have agreed to a certain amount of risk. Arizona State’s decision - and this argument is even stronger for Villanova and Seton Hall - seems contrary to their agreement to participate in their game against Baylor. Baylor’s situation - having an isolated case on the team while the rest of the team continues to test negative - would presumably have been baked into the cake.

But apparently not.

Let’s give Arizona State the benefit of the doubt, though. The last day Drew could have been in contact with the team - if the Bears got the result sometime Saturday as CBS’s Matt Norlander reported - would have been Saturday before the results came back. Let’s say that happened. From there, best practices suggest that reliably accurate COVID testing could be done no fewer than five days after exposure. That would be (per a sophisticated finger count I just did) Thursday, the day after Baylor’s scheduled game against the Sun Devils. Leave aside the argument that this level of caution probably suggests that Arizona State should go ahead cancel their season. There’s a way to argue that Baylor’s testing between the positive test and the game would not have yielded reliable results, assuming testing isn’t more accurate now than it was a month or two ago. You can let me know in the comments.

That defense does not, however, support Villanova or Seton Hall’s decisions. Both of those games would have occurred after (or in Seton Hall’s case, well after) Baylor’s testing would have been very reliable. Was Arizona State’s decision an excuse for Villanova and Seton Hall to duck Baylor? Possibly. Did they want to give themselves an opportunity to schedule a game they knew would be against a team that won’t have COVID? Well, that’s impossible. Every team is at risk of reporting a positive test on any day. Those are just the times we live in.

We don’t have to get into a complicated web of contrafactuals to argue that the decisions by those Big East teams surpasses a level of caution that allows for a season to be played. If the standard becomes “we won’t play a program with a positive case within 14 days”, there are going to be a lot of Saturday Showcases on ESPN without any lead-up games. The decisions of Villanova and Seton Hall imply a lack of trust in the testing. Should a case appear in one of those programs, we’ll see how much faith they put in the testing then.

Ultimately, the decisions of these three schools will not ripple out into wider college basketball and result in another cancelled season. In all likelihood, these programs will probably make decisions later on that are inconsistent with what has transpired the last few days.

For now, it’s a bummer that our team isn’t getting a chance to play, to show the world that this is their year, to do what they love in defiance of catastrophe and despair. For now, we’ll have to settle for a December 2nd tip against Illinois.

Unless that one gets canceled, too.

Pickup Game

  • Some 23 games scheduled for Wednesday have been either cancelled or postponed. That’s out of 139 scheduled games. Five of those canceled games involve at least one Top 25 team. I don’t know whether that’s a sustainable number or not, mostly because I’m not sure how to define the term “sustainable.”
  • The Lady Bears do still get to play today. Catch them drubbing the University of Central Arkansas on ESPN+ at 7pm CT.
  • There are several things to note about CARK, the first being that terrible abbreviation that ESPN uses for them on its scoreboard. The second notable tidbit is that their women’s teams are the Sugar Bears. It would only be equitable for the men’s teams to go by the same nickname, if you ask me. Thirdly, the school’s motto is “Go here. Go anywhere.” I hope they left a five-star review for the marketing agency they hired for that one.
  • Okay, one last CARK fun fact: their mascot’s name is Bruce D. Bear. Someone get on CARK’s level.