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College basketball’s biggest question: Will daily testing allow avoidance of contact-tracing quarantine rules?

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In just over three weeks’ time, college football has helplessly watched as 22 of its 94 games were postponed or canceled due to COVID-19. That’s an eye-catching 23.4% of its schedule. Remember, four of the 10 FBS leagues (Big Ten, Pac-12, Mountain West, MAC) haven’t played a game. The SEC just started this past weekend. 

College basketball’s schedule, 57 days out from the planned Nov. 25 start, could be at even greater risk. If the sport were to have a cancellation/postponement rate that matched college football’s first month, hoops would easily see more than 100 games impacted with a high percentage of them being cancellations as there isn’t one game per week per team and there won’t be makeup dates in the nonconference portion of the schedule. 

College football has some built-in advantages to stave off coronavirus-related schedule suspensions. Mainly, teams are so large that they can practice in groups to maintain roster stability (reducing contact-tracing requirements). Another benefit: College football teams can practice outside where the coronavirus is believed to be much less likely to spread than in a contained environment. College basketball, on the other hand, practices indoors with small, hyper-interactive rosters. 

“Absolutely one of the biggest challenges we have in front of us: to figure out how to have a competitive season in any sport without major, major stoppages,” Oregon State director for sports medicine Doug Aukerman said Friday in an NCAA video

Aukerman was speaking hours after the NCAA released its “Core Principles of Resocialization of Collegiate Basketball”. That landed with a gloomy thud Friday afternoon. The NCAA’s COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group reminded everyone what should happen if even one player tests positive during the season. The protocols therein are being viewed across college basketball as existential threat to the integrity of the upcoming season.