Tad Boyle has recounted last year’s routine plenty of times.
Every morning, the head coach of the Colorado men’s basketball team wondered if players, or how many players, might be absent from that day’s practice. And that wasn’t the worst that could happen. If a couple COVID tests went awry, the contact tracing could suddenly force the Buffaloes to shut it down entirely.
Indeed, the Buffs did have to endure a short coronavirus hiatus a little more than a year ago in early December of 2020. But even that pause resulted in a boon for the program. Looking for replacement foes on the fly, the Buffs entered into a three-game agreement with Tennessee, which brought the nationally-ranked Volunteers to the CU Events Center this past Dec. 4 and is scheduled to conclude with a heavily-tilted neutral floor game next season in Nashville.
All things considered, the Buffs weathered the 2020-21 pandemic season better than most. CU was one of seven Pac-12 teams that played all 20 of its Pac-12 games, and after missing players in the season’s first three games, the Buffs didn’t suffer further virus personnel issues throughout an extended season that included appearances in the Pac-12 tournament title game and the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Instead of a return to normalcy with the 2021-22 season, college basketball in general and the Buffs in particular might have to brace for more of the same.
The late cancellation of Tuesday’s game against No. 7 Kansas forced by a series of positive COVID tests for the Buffs that afternoon served as a stark reminder that last year’s hurdles haven’t gone away.
What comes next for the Buffs depends entirely on the health status of the team. Originally, the team was set to be released to travel home following the KU game, with a plan to reconvene in Boulder on Christmas night. Given Tuesday’s turn of events, at least a portion of the team will remain in Colorado.
The pre-cancellation plan was to have a light shoot-around on Christmas night, followed by the resumption of regular practice on Sunday. That likely will remain the plan unless COVID issues force further adjustments.
If the Buffs do indeed proceed as planned, there will be plenty of rust to shake off. CU is not scheduled to play again until Pac-12 play resumes at Oregon on Dec. 30. By then, the Buffs will be coming off a 12-day layoff between games and will have played just once in 20 days since the Dec. 10 home date against Milwaukee.
On Wednesday, the Pac-12 followed the trend nationally by adjusting its COVID game cancellation and roster requirement standards to re-establish last year’s standards. The most pertinent points are the requirement of seven scholarship players and at least one coach be available to play a game, and that contests that cannot be rescheduled will be considered no contests.
If CU ultimately has any Pac-12 games postponed, two weeks to look at will be the week of Feb. 14 and the week of Feb. 28, the final week of the regular season. Those are the Buffs’ two one-game weeks against Utah, perhaps allowing for some schedule flexibility.
“Going forward…every game is a war basically for us. We’ve got to bring our best energy,” sophomore Tristan da Silva said prior to the KU cancellation. “We’ve got to be locked in every time. We know what’s ahead of us. We’re prepared for that.”
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