The Michigan Basketball is in the midst of a great season. Standing at 13-1, the team has been one of the best in college hoops to this point in the year. However, the team now has an obstacle to deal with off the court.
The team has been forced to pause team activities for 14-days as part of a athletics-department wide stoppage after 5 student-athletes tested positive for the new COVID-19 B.1.1.7 variant. However, a source told Detroit Free Press reporter David Jesse that none of those cases are on the hoops team. “I’m told from a reliable source there are no positive tests from basketball - men and women teams and no positive results from hockey. State made determination to shut down entire U-M athletic department,” Jesse said.
Even if none of the cases are on the hoops team, this is the hand they’ve been dealt, and they’ll be missing practices and games the next two weeks.
Here’s a breakdown of who they would have been playing.
- January 26- at Penn State (5-6), Michigan won the first game 62-58
- January 30- vs. Indiana (9-6)
- February 3- at Northwestern (6-8), Michigan won the first game 85-66
- February 6- vs. Michigan State (8-4)
As it stand right now, Michigan’s next game will be in 18 days on ESPN vs. Illinois, but whether that game gets played remains to be seen. The U-M statement said “no determination has been made on how the pause may impact scheduled games beyond Feb. 7.”
Head coach Juwan Howard made it clear in December he wants to prioritize the health and safety of his players above all. “I’m always concerned about our players, staff, support staff, about their health,” Howard said after a win over Toledo. “Health is always (priority) number one with me. Basketball is last. And I’m speaking of health as well as metal health. That’s why I’ve always asked my players, ‘How are you doing?’ And that sometimes can be the typical, oh, (what) everyone wants to say, but I want to know how they’re doing mentally.”
Howard has made it a habit of reaching out to his players to make sure they’re doing okay. “(Howard) reaches out after practice,” senior forward Isaiah Livers said in December. “He won’t skip it, it’s on his plan, he sees it. He’ll just be sure to mention, ‘Hey, if you guys are struggling, I know you’re not seeing people … you’re sitting in a room all day until practice, staying inside.’ He reaches out.”
For a team that was one of the hottest in the country the past month, it’s anyone’s guess how this layoff will impact them. Not being able to practice or play in games will create a disadvantage and some rust will accumulate by default, but perhaps the tenets Howard has already instilled in the team will aid them during a time that will be challenging for them mentally. This pause in action is disappointing, and they’re going to have to pick each other up and weather the storm.