clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

November madness arrives in college basketball. Is the season really going to last?

Opening games across the country will tip off on Wednesday. Except, that is, for all the opening games — so many, it’s startling — that have been canceled or postponed because of active COVID-19 cases.

No. 2 Baylor’s season is on hold due to COVID-19.
No. 2 Baylor’s season is on hold due to COVID-19.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In a world gone mad, we find ourselves at the crossroads of a surging pandemic and the start of the college basketball season.

Opening games across the country will tip off Wednesday. Except, that is, for all the opening games — so many, it’s startling — that have been canceled or postponed because of active COVID-19 cases.

The most exciting thing about, say, Illinois at the moment isn’t its fancy No. 8 ranking or guard Ayo Dosunmu’s preseason All-American recognition. It’s simply that the Illini are going to be on the court — fingers crossed — Wednesday against North Carolina AT&T.

You can’t turn around right now in college basketball without bumping into a team whose season is, at least in the early going, in jeopardy. March Madness? Maybe we’ll get there. November madness is here.

Where to begin? ‘‘Bubbleville’’ seems appropriate. That’s what folks billed the Mohegan Sun resort in Uncasville, Connecticut, where 40 men’s and women’s teams were to gather and play dozens of games over 11 days.

Most of those teams are still there to play — including the Arizona State men, who flew across the country not even knowing the identity of their first opponent — but the top draws are not. On the men’s side, No. 2 Baylor pulled out late after coach Scott Drew tested positive. On the women’s side, No. 3 Connecticut had to shut things down, wiping its first four games off the schedule.

Is ‘‘Troubleville’’ already taken?

No. 11 Tennessee had to cancel its Volunteer Classic after multiple positive tests, one of them for coach Rick Barnes. The Vols are supposed to play Duke — whose own opener was postponed because of a positive test in the Gardner-Webb program — and Notre Dame next week.

DePaul canceled its first three scheduled games — against Chicago State, Alcorn State and Northern Illinois — not that coach Dave Leitao had any easy nonconference ‘‘W’s’’ to spare.

‘‘We’ll get through this together,’’ Leitao said, one hopes correctly.

Mississippi, with coach Kermit Davis among several active cases, canceled its first four. Arizona’s start will be delayed. Wichita State — a week after star coach Gregg Marshall resigned amid an investigation into player-abuse allegations — flew to South Dakota for the Crossover Classic and had several members of its traveling party test positive, this before even spending any real time in the state that lately has had the highest per-capita rate of COVID-19 deaths in the country.

This is merely a brief representation of what’s happening out there in college basketball, which is going ahead with a traditional-travel model. Does this season really have a chance to last?

JUST SAYIN’

The top division of college football, meanwhile, is nearing 100 games postponed or canceled since the start of the season. Along the way, most teams have dealt with at least a handful of COVID-19 cases.

Then there’s Northwestern, remarkable not only for its 5-0 record and No. 8 standing in the College Football Playoff rankings, but also for its perfect testing record since the start of training camp. Each day, 170 players, coaches and staffers have taken rapid antigen tests. Coach Pat Fitzgerald raves about his players’ ‘‘social discipline.’’

‘‘I think it’s really hard to be a college student-athlete and [hear], ‘Hey, guys, listen, I don’t want you to do anything socially,’ and then for them to follow up and really follow through with that,’’ Fitzgerald said. ‘‘They’ve done a great job just staying in self-contained bubbles to the best of their ability.’’

Beyond impressive.

•  On a related note, Fitzgerald ended his Zoom news conference Monday with Thanksgiving wishes for health-care workers on the front lines of pandemic.

‘‘I know things are getting more and more challenging,’’ he said. ‘‘I know it’s been a grind. We’re just thankful for your sacrifice and your dedication to help keep all of us healthy and safe.”

Hear, hear.

• A powerful segment in the new episode of HBO’s ‘‘Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’’ begins with former Blackhawks enforcer Daniel Carcillo in a Peru jungle ‘‘on a mission to find a cure for what ails him and save his own life.’’

The segment focuses on former athletes who’ve turned to psychedelic drugs for help with aftereffects of injuries, primarily to the head. Carcillo — who claims to have had ‘‘maybe hundreds’’ of concussions on top of the seven diagnosed during his career — describes feeling ‘‘spiritually, mentally and physically dead inside,’’ feeling like a ‘‘loser’’ and contemplating suicide.

It’s painful to hear. Months after his use of the powerful drug ayahuasca, though, Carcillo and his wife describe a man who is all but cured.

‘‘I’m living my best life, by far,’’ he says in a segment that also features former NFL safety Kerry Rhodes and ex-MMA champions Dean Lister and Ian McCall.

Wedge this one into your binge-watching, people.

•  Here’s what new Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said in reference to Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo all being eligible to become free agents after next season:

‘‘In this job, you always have one eye on the present and one eye on the future . . . [and] that eye might be a little bit more focused toward the future than usual. But that doesn’t take away from the goal, and the goal is to always make the playoffs.’’

Translation: What’s it gonna take to put you in this Buick?

Brett Favre’s record against the Bears: 22-10.

Aaron Rodgers’ record against the Bears: 19-5.

And this is a rivalry?

Packers, 34-6.