The coronavirus is already playing havoc with Gonzaga's season less than two weeks in

click to enlarge The coronavirus is already playing havoc with Gonzaga's season less than two weeks in
Young Kwak
Mark Few and his Gonzaga players are having a rough go with COVID in the early stages of the season.

On Sunday, the Gonzaga Bulldogs announced they would be pausing men’s basketball activities until December 14 due to multiple COVID-19 positives within the program. That announcement came a day after a much-anticipated matchup between the No. 1-ranked Zags and No. 2-ranked Baylor Bears was called off at the last minute due to Gonzaga’s positive tests.

“Out of an abundance of caution and the well-being of student-athletes, in accordance with COVID-19 protocols Gonzaga has made the decision to pause men's basketball competitions through December 14,” the team said in a statement.

Gonzaga’s coronavirus troubles didn’t start over the weekend, though.

Prior to the season-opener against Kansas on Thanksgiving, the program reported a positive test within the travel party that accompanied the team to Florida for the game. At that point, no players had tested positive and team doctors along with Florida health officials allowed the game to take place as scheduled. Following the game, more positives were reported. That time, players were involved.

Freshmen Julian Strawther and Dominick Harris, both of whom played limited minutes against Kansas, were then held out of the second game of the season, against Auburn, a day later. While the team didn’t name them, Harris’ father announced on Twitter that his son was isolating after being deemed a close contact with someone who had tested positive. That leaves Strawther as the likely positive on the roster.

With those two held out, once again team doctors and Florida health officials allowed the Auburn game to be played. As they were stuck in quarantine and isolation, respectively, the team continued on to Indianapolis for a date last Wednesday with West Virginia. Having reported no new positives in the days prior, that game was allowed to go on as scheduled.

Three days later, still in Indianapolis ahead of the game against Baylor, the team reported more positives, including another from a player. While the program again did not name the player, they confirmed the player in question had not played in the game against West Virginia. That’s comforting, I guess.

As of now, the program has reported four positive tests, though it’s unclear exactly how many people within the program have tested positive.

After playing three games despite positive tests within the program, the Zags are now grinding to a halt. As a result, they’ll be cancelling the upcoming home games scheduled against Tarleton State, Southern, Northern Arizona and Idaho, all of which were set to take place before Dec. 14. The first game scheduled after Dec. 14 is against No. 3-ranked Iowa and set to be played in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on Dec. 19.

Having to wipe those games from the schedule isn’t the only headache for Gonzaga’s staff right now. As a result of the positives, players and staff were forced to stay behind in Florida when the rest of the team departed for Indiana. Then, more were forced to stay behind in Indiana when the team returned to Spokane.

Ultimately, it’s a lesson in the dangers of trying to go about things as if they were normal when in fact, because of a pandemic, they are very much not normal. It’s a lesson in dealing with protocols that clearly aren’t working, and are different depending on where you are — which shouldn’t matter, since both the CDC and Gonzaga University have advised against any unnecessary travel, but here we are. It’s a lesson not just for Gonzaga, but for every team in the sport, and it’s a lesson these teams are learning the hard way.

The Zags aren’t even the only team in their league to be on a pause due to positive tests. San Diego has yet to play a game after starting their season on a pause. On Friday, Pacific decided to shut things down for two weeks. Now the Zags are right there with them and countless others around the country.

On the bright side, Mark Few and Baylor head coach Scott Drew both said on Saturday that they have every intention to reschedule their game for sometime later this season. Hopefully they can make that work, because it should be one of the best games of the year. It might not be wise to get your hopes up, though, because while it’s the biggest game to be canceled so far this season, it surely won’t be the last.

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