Notre Dame schedule up in basketball air with health/safety protocols at No. 2 Duke

Tom Noie
ND Insider

Here we go again.

Another winter of positive COVID-19 tests within college basketball programs, another winter of scrambling with conference scheduling issues.

Guard Prentiss Hubb and Notre Dame were supposed to host Duke on Saturday in the Irish home league opener. That's off after positive coronavirus tests within the Blue Devils' program.

Multiple media outlets reported Monday morning that No. 2 Duke was "not expected" to play its two Atlantic Coast Conference games this week – including Saturday at Notre Dame – because of health/safety protocols within the Blue Devils' program.

As of late Monday morning, the league announced only that Duke's game Wednesday at Clemson would not be played. There is no official word about the Notre Dame game. Notre Dame has not been informed that Duke cannot play Saturday. The Duke game is scheduled to be Notre Dame's conference home opener and the final visit by outgoing Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

If Saturday's game cannot be played, it likely will be rescheduled. The ACC changed its COVID-19 cancellation policy late last week. Originally, teams that were unable to play because of COVID-19 issues were forced to forfeit.

Under the league's revised rule, if a team with coronavirus issues has at least one coach and seven players available, it must play a scheduled game. If it chooses not to play with seven, the game is declared a forfeit. If a team does not have at least seven players and one coach available, the game is deemed a no contest and the league will attempt to reschedule.

Duke could – stress could – have enough players clear protocols to play Saturday. The chances of that happening are slim. A determination cannot be made until later this week.

Duke is one of six ACC men's program currently in pandemic-related pause. It joins Boston College, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Virginia Tech. Syracuse, which had been on pause for 15 days, is scheduled to play Monday at home against Brown.

College coaches now have to deal with coronavirus issues within their programs for a second straight winter. It's again reached a point of maybe a team plays two games in a week or maybe they don't play for two weeks. Nobody knows what's coming next.

"We just adjust, man," Irish coach Mike Brey said last week of something he feared was coming down the basketball boulevard. "Maybe I was tricking myself. I thought we wouldn't have to deal with it as much because we had crowds again."

According to CBS Sports, more than 40 men's basketball programs currently are on pause because of virus protocols as of Monday morning. The only certainty is uncertainty.

"I feel like I've got to be back to managing our kids' psyches during this," Brey said. "That's fine. I got it. I get it. Last 48 hours, be ready to roll like last year with our group."

Long before the Omicron variant became an issue earlier this month, Brey made the decision to keep his players on campus between the last game before Christmas on Dec. 22 and the first game after Christmas, still scheduled for Tuesday at Pittsburgh.

Duke's players apparently were allowed to go home for Christmas, which likely factored into this week's issues.

"I'm kind of glad we're keeping them (here)," Brey said of his guys last week. "Now, my biggest worry is protecting the league games."

Notre Dame had eight games affected last season because of coronavirus issues. None were a result of positive tests within the Irish program. Notre Dame was the only team among the 15 ACC schools not to have a pause of its own doing last year.

Two of Notre Dame's home league games – against Clemson and Georgia Tech – were postponed because of coronavirus issues and never rescheduled.

Brey said late last week that everyone in the Notre Dame program – players, coaches, support staff, etc. – is fully vaccinated and boosted.

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI