This was supposed to be a challenging week for the West Virginia men’s basketball team with four games against AP Top 25 teams in a span of seven days starting on Feb. 13.
Due to COVID-19 postponements in early January, the Mountaineers were placed on a two-week pause that saw matchups against Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State get postponed.
Issues with COVID-19 at Baylor have caused the Bears to postpone their last six games as they plan to return to the court for the first time since Feb. 2 on Tuesday against Iowa State. Those six games that Baylor postponed sent a shock through college basketball as one of the clear contenders for a national championship has been on one of the lengthiest COVID-19 pauses in the Big 12 this season.
The Mountaineers have had four games postponed due to COVID-19 as its matchup with Baylor on Feb. 15 and Feb. 18 were affected by the current COVID-19 issues in Waco, Texas. Out of those four games that have been postponed, WVU has been able to reschedule one of them: Baylor on Feb. 25 in Waco, Texas.
Head coach Bob Huggins has expressed his concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the 2020-21 season.
“When I was a kid, they used to ask me, ‘You’re not afraid of very much are you?’ I would say, ‘I’m afraid of ghosts,’ Huggins said on Jan. 21 prior to WVU’s game against Kansas State. “I would say, ‘I can’t see them; I can’t hit anything I can’t see.’ That’s how I feel right now. I can’t see this (COVID-19), and that scares me.”
Only one team in the Big 12 has made it through nearly the entire season without COVID-19 issues: the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas has had one game postponed — Iowa State on Jan. 16 — and that game was rescheduled and played on Feb. 11.
In normal times, a team in the Big 12 plays 18 conference games. This season, currently only Kansas is scheduled to hit that mark. As scheduled, Baylor will fall short of the 18-game Big 12 slate as it only has three remaining games on its schedule with nine games played.
With teams struggling to play all 18 games, the Big 12 has a large dilemma on its hands — multiple Big 12 games remain unscheduled — prior to the conference tournament starting on March 10 in Kansas City, Missouri. The conference tournament is expected to play as scheduled, but Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby knows a lot can change before March.
“We have not had any discussions about canceling, but then we hadn’t had any discussions last year about canceling,” Bowlsby said in an interview with Dallas News. “Those are things that you try to gather the best information you can, and then you make the decisions in real time. Should that ever become a topic of discussion, it’s probably going to be right up against the tournament.”
The college basketball season in the Big 12 is scheduled to end on Feb. 27. That gives the Big 12 and the teams with postponed games still not rescheduled nearly two weeks to make up all games remaining on their respective schedules. If there are not further postponements, every team in the Big 12 — except Baylor and TCU — will play at least 15 conference games by the end of the season.
Of course, there is a chance that teams could make up all of their postponed games during that time between the end of the scheduled regular season and the beginning of the conference tournament on March 10. West Virginia has yet to face TCU or Baylor once this season, but games are scheduled for the Mountaineers against the Bears and Horned Frogs before the end of the year.
The situation surrounding college basketball and the Big 12 continues to be fluid and unpredictable with COVID-19. With the conference tournament and NCAA Tournament less than a month away, things are becoming more concrete, but issues continue to rise with the pandemic.
“We’re now faced with the questions around what games do you make up and which ones you don’t make up,” Bowlsby said in an interview. “We don’t have any answers on that just yet, but we’re working on it.”