Playing college basketball smack in the middle of a global pandemic was possible, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey insisted, as long as programs remained “nimble” to the constant change that was sure to surface.
Even being this nimble is beyond bizarre. It’s downright nuts, and might cause a serious muscle pull, or at least a spasm.
The Atlantic Coast Conference schedule was supposed to send Notre Dame (3-5 overall; 0-2 ACC) to western Pennsylvania this weekend for a Saturday afternoon game against Pittsburgh. But with coronavirus issues still an issue with the Panthers, that game has been postponed.
It’s the second straight league road game for the Irish that’s been put on pause. There won’t be a third.
The ACC hammered out a scenario Thursday afternoon that sends Notre Dame to Tobacco Road for a game Saturday at North Carolina. Tip-off is 4 p.m. It will be broadcast on the ACC Network.
Following Wednesday’s home loss to No. 23 Virginia, Brey admitted that he didn’t know if Saturday’s game at Pittsburgh was still on, or even would be played. He said his program would go anywhere and play anybody. If that meant going to Pittsburgh and finding out the game was postponed, but then playing Duquesne or Robert Morris, so be it.
If that meant playing a hastily-arranged home game (even if it was non-conference), he’d do it.
Anything so that his guys still would get to play. Somewhere. Against someone.
“That’s how I think now,” Brey said. “That’s the crazy thing with how your mind is working with scheduling right now. Our guys, we’re all trained to live day to day, but I’m thinking about Plan B. That’s the weird stuff about it. It’s crazy.”
Crazy, perhaps, but it beats the alternative. The Irish already know what it’s like not to play at all after the pandemic shut down the end of last season. They don’t want to go back to that, even if they don’t know where they might be going next.
“We have a good group of guys that just wants to come in and get better,” he said. “Just control what we can control. If we play, that would be amazing, but if we don’t, just come to practice and compete.”
The teams split its two meetings last season. Notre Dame lost in Chapel Hill to start the season, then got a 3-pointer from Laszewski with 2.4 seconds remaining for a 77-76 victory.
North Carolina finished last in the ACC last season. Notre Dame finished last in the ACC two seasons ago.
North Carolina (5-4 overall, 0-2 ACC) was scheduled to host Syracuse on Saturday. But COVID-19 issues have had the Orange program shut down since Dec. 21. That postponed Notre Dame’s first league road game at Syracuse on Dec. 22.
Notre Dame was scheduled to visit North Carolina on Jan. 30. The league likely will use that weekend as potential makeup dates for Irish games against Pittsburgh or Syracuse.
Saturday will be Notre Dame’s first conference road game. The Irish were 4-6 away from home in league play. Notre Dame looks to avoid an 0-3 start for the first time in its seven-year affiliation with the ACC. The last time Notre Dame started 0-3 was 2005-06 when it was a member of the Big East.
Saturday’s postponed game at Pittsburgh is the fifth contest on Notre Dame’s schedule affected by coronavirus issues.
It likely won’t be the last.