The Bears hardly are alone, as this season’s schedule has become increasingly fluid because of the pandemic, with changes happening daily and seemingly sometimes hourly.
The Bears were supposed to begin the season with games Wednesday and Thursday in Connecticut, but those contests were canceled — along with a game Sunday at Seton Hall — after Coach Scott Drew revealed he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
But even with Drew still in self-isolation, the Bears boarded a United charter flight bound for Las Vegas on Thanksgiving night ahead of two new games scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. They took off not knowing the identity of their first opponent, though it was revealed Friday morning to be Louisiana.
Baylor then will face Washington on Sunday at T-Mobile Arena.
Associate head coach Jerome Tang will coach the Bears in Drew’s absence, according to the Waco Tribune. Tang told reporters Friday that Drew hasn’t experienced any symptoms and the plan is to have him return to the program Tuesday. College basketball journalist Andy Katz reported late Thursday night that Drew will rejoin the Bears in Indianapolis on Monday for games there Wednesday against No. 8 Illinois and Dec. 5 against top-ranked Gonzaga.
Tang said Baylor’s unusual situation created “a lot of anxiety because so much was up in the air, and just trying to — all of us — focus on day to day, one day at a time, what we can control that day, and then whatever happened the next day we would adjust and figure it out.”
Getting Baylor in the Las Vegas tournament required a lot of moving parts, according to Tang, who jokingly said the worst thing you can do is give Drew time to operate a phone and computer.
“If he needed to get 64 teams together for us to be able to start this season, he would’ve got that done,” Tang said. “It was a whirlwind. Lots of questions, lots of phone calls, lots of texts messages, lots of trying to get people’s numbers, looking at people’s schedules to see who needs an MTE [multi-team event], who’s lost a game — just a whole bunch of stuff, but everybody pulling together because we wanted our guys to be able to compete this weekend."
Junior guard Jared Butler echoed Tang’s sentiments, saying Friday that the past few days have “been extremely chaotic."
Louisiana’s season opener against Loyola of New Orleans, scheduled for Saturday at home, was canceled because of coronavirus issues within the Wolf Pack program, meaning the Ragin’ Cajuns wouldn’t begin their season until Dec. 2 at the University of New Orleans.
Washington originally was supposed to begin its season against Tulane in Shanghai, but that game was canceled in July. Washington also canceled its Husky Classic, a four-team tournament featuring Portland State, San Diego and Cal State Fullerton that was supposed to be this week, leaving the Huskies without any games until a Dec. 3 matchup at Utah.
In Uncasville, Conn., the Mohegan Sun Arena had planned to host 45 “Bubbleville” games between Wednesday and Dec. 5, The Bubbleville concept is being used as a replacement for early-season “multi-team event” tournaments and is patterned after the bubble model successfully utilized by the NBA and WNBA to finish their seasons amid the pandemic. But a number of games scheduled for it already have been canceled.
Temple had to bow out of this weekend’s Air Force Reserve Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at the casino resort because of coronavirus issues. In stepped No. 3 Villanova, which will replace the Owls as Virginia Tech’s opponent in the event on Saturday. The Wildcats already had played games Wednesday and Thursday at the Empire Classic tournament at the Mohegan Sun Arena (the same Empire Classic that Baylor could not attend), and Coach Jay Wright decided to extend their stay by adding the game against Virginia Tech.
“If we can get the game in, why wouldn’t we?” Wright told Matt Norlander of CBS Sports. “We’re already here.”
Stephen F. Austin had to depart the facility within hours of arriving after a support staff member tested positive for the coronavirus, its three scheduled games canceled. Lumberjacks Coach Kyle Keller told the Dallas Morning News that he has been trying to find new opponents, even talking with Drew about possibly getting a game with Baylor at one point.
“What you have on your schedule is not ever going to be what it truly is going to be throughout the year,” Keller said. “So then you’ve got to go to the Rolodex and say, ‘All right, who needs games?' ”
Stephen F. Austin now will open the season Wednesday at home against Hardin Simmons.
Maine also was already on site when it bowed out of Bubbleville after the school paused all of its winter sports through at least Dec. 8. The Black Bears were supposed to play Virginia on Wednesday and Central Connecticut State on Friday in Uncasville, before traveling to Hamden, Conn., for a game Sunday at Quinnipiac.
The Maine women’s team also was scheduled to play at Bubbleville on Saturday and Sunday but had yet to arrive at the facility when the school paused its winter sports. The same can be said for the powerhouse Connecticut women’s team, which canceled its first four games — two at the Mohegan Sun — after a support staffer tested positive (one of those games, Dec. 6 against Seton Hall, was rescheduled for Dec. 17).
Each team participating in the Bubbleville events has its own floor at the 1,600-room Mohegan Sun hotel, and players, coaches, staff, referees and television announcers are tested as they arrive, between 24 and 48 hours before the start of the games in which they will be involved. Teams and game personnel also are kept separate from the resort’s casino, which still is open to the public.