PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — When last we left Villanova and the rest of the college basketball world, it was March Sadness.
The NCAA Tournament along with conference tournaments across the country were canceled as the first dark days of the pandemic arrived. There was little known about the virus at the time of the cancelations, and players and coaches were hopeful the 2020-21 season would start on time.
However, the reality of COVID-19 left a host of uncertainty. The college basketball season normally tips off in November. That may be too much to ask considering the rapid rise in recent coronavirus cases, but Villanova coach Jay Wright believes he and his players will soon have a schedule for the upcoming season.
"I think we’ll get a Big East schedule soon," said Wright. "I think we have our non-conference set up anticipating kind of what the Big East will do that we’re set."
The Wildcats may get a schedule soon, but as seen in other sports, there will be no guarantees once the season gets underway. Most college teams have canceled early season non-conference games due to the travel and many teams will play fewer games out of their conference. However, the possibility of playing in a bubble the way the NBA did is hard to fathom for college basketball.
"The doctors have told us that's the only way you can ensure you're going to play every game," Wright said. "The costs are exorbitant. These are college kids. They're not professionals. You really can't demand they go into a bubble, and if you do it for men, you've got to do it for the women, and that doubles the cost."
The pandemic has forced drastic changes for Villanova during the off-season. In addition to a COVID-19 scare, the Cats have a host of nagging injuries with the team being unable to go through its usual summer routine. The result could mean several different lineups for the Cats when the season gets underway.
"We're doing everything completely differently," said Wright. "We're looking at dealing with our COVID thing and some of our injuries as a positive. It's very possible in this season more than any, you could have unique lineups available to play on different nights."
Wright is hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. As in other sports, it seems inevitable that COVID-19 issues will arise during the season. For now, Wright and his players are happy to back on the court practicing knowing they will likely have a chance to play this season.
"We’ve tested," Wright said. "We’ve done Zooms. We’ve done our Zoom class. Now, we’re back on the basketball court again. It’s back to normal, and we’re really enjoying it.”