It was no secret college basketball was going to have its share of hiccups this season. The virus does not discriminate between high-major and mid-major programs.
However, some programs have been slammed by COVID-19 more so than others, and suffer through the shutdowns that come with it. Sacred Heart falls under that category.
As the season reaches its first full week back since the premature ending to last season, Sacred Heart has had one basketball game played between its men’s and women’s programs. Last Wednesday, the men’s basketball team fell to #23 Rutgers 86-63. Even then, Anthony Latina said he was missing some of his players due to injuries and COVID-19 protocols.
Sandwiched between that lone game last week have been two separate two-week shutdowns for both Pioneer programs due to positive tests within each program. The latest shutdown began last Friday, just two days after the men’s team took on Rutgers.
Junior guard Aaron Clarke expressed his frustration with the stopping and starting that comes with the COVID-19 shutdowns, stemming all the way back to the summer.
“It was hard for me this offseason to be prepared. I missed 30 days [during the preseason] because I was in quarantine,” said Clarke.
As for the women’s team, they have faced the harsh reality of scheduling in this unprecedented season. The team was slated to face off with crosstown rival Fairfield last Wednesday, but had to reschedule due to an inconclusive COVID-19 test within its traveling party. The game was moved to Saturday.
Hours after the reschedule was announced, it was cancelled as that same inconclusive test came back positive, forcing Jessica Mannetti’s team into another pause in basketball activities.
The likely return date for both teams to resume basketball activities is Dec. 13. Provided things get up and running at that time, both teams will have been paused due to COVID-19 for 29 of the last 37 days.
The timing of this second shutdown creates issues within scheduling, more so within the women’s team. On Dec. 8 and 9, the team was scheduled to open their Northeast Conference slate of their season against Wagner at home. That is now out of the picture for the time being. Their next playable game on the schedule is on the road against conference foe LIU on Dec. 15 and 16.
The men’s team currently has a game on Dec. 13 against Division III opponent Rhode Island College. After that, they open conference play at home against LIU on Dec. 15 and 16.
Upon the release of the conference schedule for this season, the Northeast Conference established three weeks throughout conference play that were intentionally left open for situations like the one Sacred Heart is in.
Although there is still plenty of flexibility, there are already many headaches putting games into the calendar.
“This is going to be one of those years where we do a lot of stop-starts,” said Mannetti. “We have to be able to deal with that and keep figuring it out.”