Notre Dame’s Remaining February Schedule On Slightly Wobbly Ground
Despite voicing his support of playing a basketball season, Jack Swarbrick understood it wouldn’t all be smooth.
“I think it’s going to be a mess,” the Notre Dame director of athletics said on an early December Zoom call.
Not one that becomes too overpowering, but a consistent nuisance. His school’s own men’s basketball team can attest.
After going nearly a month without a game canceled or postponed, the Irish are staring down a possibility of playing just once more in February – Saturday at Syracuse. And like prior affected games, none of the recent changes or conceivable upcoming alterations are due to any COVID-19 issues within their ranks.
Notre Dame did not play this week after its Wednesday home game against Clemson was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test within the Tigers’ Tier 1 personnel (players, coaches, support staff). No makeup date has been announced.
The uncertainty does not end there. Notre Dame’s Feb. 23 game at Louisville is on less-than-stable ground after a positive test within the Cardinals’ program deleted a Wednesday home game against Syracuse. The Irish’s final game of the month, a Feb. 27 trip to Boston College, is no sure thing after the Eagles’ Wednesday game vs. Georgia Tech and Feb. 23 meeting with North Carolina were postponed due to a positive test in their Tier 1 personnel.
For now, the feeling among folks around the program is both games will be played. That is, though, subject to change by the day.
“You do have some concerns, but from talking to the league office today, if they stay in their protocols, they should be good to go next week if nothing else happens,” coach Mike Brey said on WSBT radio Wednesday. “But we know how that goes.”
All told, Notre Dame has had eight games affected by opponent COVID-19 issues. The Irish had 27 games on their schedule a week before the season started. They’re now likely to max out at 24, with 18 ACC games scheduled. Not bad, in the bigger picture. The ACC has played 80 percent of its scheduled league games, which Brey called “a win.”
But the continued modifications are still disruptive for a team that’s 6-2 in its last eight games and trying to climb into the postseason picture. And Brey’s team sits stationary until Saturday, because finding makeups is an exercise in futility. Notre Dame has tried, both in prior weeks and this week.
“We’ll play at midnight,” Brey said. “We just want to play. We’re playing well. A little frustrating, but we really couldn’t pull anything off mid-week.”
After the latest postponement, Notre Dame reportedly had preliminary conversations with West Virginia and Creighton about an impromptu non-conference game this week, but they did not lead to anything concrete. Both teams were idle Monday through Friday.
Georgia Tech was suddenly free after its Boston College contest was postponed Tuesday on a day’s notice, but a source said that was not a serious candidate for a makeup game because there was too little lead time, per ACC rules. It would’ve made sense otherwise – the Yellow Jackets were initially scheduled to come to Purcell Pavilion on Jan. 6 until their own COVID-19 pause squashed those plans. The game has not been given a makeup date.
Brey did reveal Notre Dame would have played without guard Cormac Ryan had it taken the floor Wednesday, presumably due to an ankle injury he suffered in a Feb. 14 win over Miami (though he returned to that game).
“Nothing really worked out mid-week, and maybe that’s a good thing given Cormac’s situation,” Brey said. “So we’ll head to Syracuse and hope we can play that game and at least get the ones in that are still scheduled.”
To really dive into hypotheticals, North Carolina is idle next week after its visit to Boston College was called off. Since that was a road game, perhaps the Tar Heels would be more willing to head to Notre Dame if the Irish are not able to play Louisville as scheduled. But that’s a bridge at which the Irish have not yet arrived and everyone is hoping they never have to cross.
“If something happens, we’ll scramble to get a game mid-week,” Brey said. “We’ll keep scrambling to get games. You always try and do it with an ACC opponent at this point, but heck, we’d be open.”
Louisville is one of three Quadrant 1 games remaining on Notre Dame’s regular-season schedule. For the Irish’s NCAA tournament credentials to be taken seriously, improving on their 1-7 Quadrant 1 record and 3-10 mark in the first two quadrants is a must. The presumably canceled home games against Clemson and Georgia Tech were Quadrant 2 opportunities.
“You’re going to need a couple of those,” Brey said, “To give yourself a chance at this thing.”
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