Coronavirus throws another wrench into Notre Dame hoops schedule

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

What was supposed to be a busy week of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball for one of the league’s hottest teams just got a little less so.


Winners of six of its last eight league games following Sunday’s home victory, Notre Dame (9-10; 6-7 ACC) was scheduled to return to action Wednesday at home against Clemson. On Monday morning, the ACC announced that the game has been postponed due to coronavirus issues with the Tigers.

“Very frustrating ‘cause we’re playing well,” Irish coach Mike Brey said on Monday’s ACC coaches Zoom call. “You were looking at it as a week to make a move. I think we’ve found something. Maybe we’ll replace it. The day is young.”

Brey said late Monday morning that his program is “working on” a plan to play Wednesday. That might mean another league home game or a possible non-league opponent. Brey mentioned possibly playing a Big East program.

“We’d love to play,” Brey said. “There’s some balance that has to be worked through with this thing. You can only ask people to do so much. Everybody’s trying.”

North Carolina was thought to be a possible league option after its game Tuesday against No. 18 Virginia Tech was postponed for virus issues with the Hokies. Tar Heels coach Roy Williams mentioned Monday that his team has played so few home games this season (six at home, nine on road) that they’d first prefer to find an opponent to play at the Smith Center instead of going back out on the road.

The program’s Twitter account tweeted Monday morning that it was looking for an opponent to play at home this week. By noon, any chance of playing Notre Dame was unlikely.

Notre Dame has had league home games postponed against two teams (Clemson, Georgia Tech) that are Quadrant One opponents in terms of NCAA tournament resumes. Not that the Irish currently are in any position to play in the NCAA tournament, but playing those teams — and beating them — would be a big step in that direction.

“That’s very frustrating because you’re going to need a couple of those to give yourself a chance at this thing,” Brey said. “To lose two Quad One home games is a little bit of a dagger.”

There is no word on any potential makeup date for either Clemson or Georgia Tech. Wednesday’s game is the eighth this season affected by coronavirus issues for Notre Dame. None of those games are because of issues within the Irish program. It’s the second time Clemson has gone on pause. It also stopped from Jan. 8 to Jan. 12.

Clemson beat Georgia Tech on Friday at home. The Tigers practiced and tested Sunday, then learned of the positive result.

“Now you’re just trying to figure it out and make sure it doesn’t get going through your program,” said Clemson coach Brad Brownell. “It’s hard. This is a hard year for a lot of us.”

Clemson had won four of its last five after three straight league losses.

“Your team’s in a good place and you want to play,” Brownell said. “We’ll just see what happens the next couple days.”

Wednesday was to be the first time this season that Notre Dame would’ve played consecutive league home games. It’s the first Irish game affected by the virus since the Jan. 18 game at Howard was canceled. It’s the first Irish league game affected since the Jan. 6 home game against Georgia Tech was postponed.

Scheduled to play 27 regular-season games, Notre Dame is on track for 24, 18 in league play.

Coronavirus issues may still impact the rest of the week for Notre Dame, which is scheduled to play Saturday at Syracuse. It remains to be determined if that game will go. On Sunday, the Daily Orange, the Syracuse student newspaper, reported that an off-campus party was hosted by Syracuse student-athletes that involved over 50 people with no masks or social distancing.

It’s unclear if any Orange men’s basketball players were involved.

“I don’t know anything about it,” Orange coach Jim Boeheim said Monday. “I don’t know what the circumstances are.”

Saturday’s game at the Carrier Dome is a makeup game after the Dec. 22 game in Central New York was postponed because of coronavirus issues with the Syracuse program.

Notre Dame is one of only three of the league’s 15 schools — along with Duke and Miami (Fla.) — that has not had a game postponed or canceled because of virus issues within its program.

“I understand everybody’s got their issues,” Brey said. “(Heck) we tested this morning and by 6 o’clock tonight, we may have our issues. We’ve been very fortunate.”

Especially given that the Irish women’s program, which shares the Rolfs Hall facility with the Irish men, has been on pause since late last week for coronavirus issues.

“They’ve had some issues before and whenever it happens, they’ve kind of stayed away until it’s safe,” said Brey, who indicated that his program went through coronavirus issues for 10 days in September. “I haven’t seen anyone over there on that side in four or five days. I’m assuming that will stay the case until it’s safe.”

Winners of six of eight, Notre Dame had hoped to play again Wednesday against Clemson. That game was postponed after coronavirus issues within the Tigers' program.