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It’s Time To Call A Pause On College Basketball

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We hate to say it, but the alternatives are narrowing

ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament - Second Round
GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA - MARCH 11: Head coach Jeff Capel of the Pittsburgh Panthers reacts following a play against the North Carolina State Wolfpack during their game in the second round of the 2020 Men’s ACC Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 11, 2020 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

This isn’t an easy thing for us to say. We love college basketball. We were pretty literally weaned on it.

Watching the ACC Tournament stopped mid-stream was incredibly depressing. No NCAA Tournament left a huge hole that nothing could fill. We were out of it for weeks.

Obviously that called for perspective too. We knew people were suffering and dying in the pandemic. Everyone had to give up something though and many people lost so much more than basketball.

Here though, losing the game was a real blow. So we say this with resignation, with sorrow, but with conviction:

It’s time to pause the season.

Look at where we are. Start with ESPN’s current headlines for example:

You don’t have to look too far to see more problems. Wake Forest has only been able to play twice. Syracuse and Louisville have stopped and started their seasons. Jim Boeheim tested positive; Jeff Capel did too. Duke canceled all remaining non-conference games, Duke women called off the rest of the season and just Monday, the Duke-Pitt game was postponed due to positive tests in the Pitt program.

The most important thing though is what happened at Florida.

Privacy laws mean that Keyontae Johnson doesn’t have to discuss exactly why he lost consciousness on the court against Florida State, but we do know that he had a positive test and that myocarditis is a potential result of catching Covid-19.

Myocarditis, for those who don’t know, is a viral infection of the heart which can lead to death.

While Johnson’s parents have promised to discuss what happened if it will benefit others, that raises a lot of questions that have yet to be answered.

While we appreciate the NCAA giving it the old college try, as it were, it’s not working. And by all accounts we’re heading into a much more serious phase of the pandemic.

We’ve been reluctant to go here, but in our opinion, the best thing the NCAA could do right now - certainly better than filing a copyright for Mask Madness, which the cartel has done in an incredible display of tone deafness even for the NCAA - would be to just hold off for a while.

With vaccines being more widely available, the NCAA should consider a two-stage approach: first, put the season on pause for two months and see how things look in March. If it’s still not feasible, then consider restarting in either May or June after the spring semester, have a reduced schedule, and lower the bar for tournament admittance, holding it either at Disney World or Indianapolis. Both locations have plenty of hotel rooms and gymnasiums nearby.

We’re not sure an open tournament, like Coach K proposed, is the best answer, but doubling it this year to 128?

Sure.

In the meantime, we would say that practice should continue if schools and players so desire and that local teams - local meaning within easy driving distance - should be able to schedule scrimmages or games that don’t count in the standings, assuming they want to do that.

That would allow teams to at least keep a bit of a competitive edge.

We would also say that the NCAA should temporarily waive the limits on how much coaches can work with teams for that time period. If games can’t be played, at a minimum, players who choose to should be able to better themselves athletically. And really, with most campuses shut down, other than school what else is there to do? It’s kind of ridiculous to limit them at this point. By the same token, they shouldn’t be forced or pressured to do so either.

The bottom line though is that while everyone has tried hard to make it work, it just isn't. So let’s take a break and resume when the vaccines have made a broader beachhead and things have hopefully calmed down a bit.