UConn facing uncertain timeline amid COVID-19 waiting game

The unpredictability of a sports season during a pandemic has hit home for the Connecticut men’s basketball team.

Last Friday night, UConn was preparing for a game against North Carolina State in a bubble at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. By Saturday afternoon, the Huskies were close to adding at least one game early in the week after their game with the Wolfpack was canceled due to a positive COVID-19 test. And by Sunday, they were entering into a pause for the second time after having a player test positive for the coronavirus.

“To keep a team engaged and prepared to play games and then have a season, it doesn’t feel like much of a season right now,” coach Dan Hurley said on Tuesday over Zoom. “You get frustrated, you see how challenging it’s going to be, but we knew that this was going to be a season filled with stops and starts and uncertainty.”

This obviously wasn’t how UConn expected its return to the Big East to go. Instead of hosting St. John’s on Friday night in the Huskies’ first game in the remade conference, several members of the program are in quarantine due to contact tracing. Sunday’s game against Georgetown likely will be called off as well. That, according to Hurley, is the first day his program will be allowed to be together if all goes right with testing.

“That’s a difficult timeline,” UConn’s third-year coach said.

Connecticut is one of several Big East programs that have been impacted by the virus. Butler is currently in a pause. DePaul is too, and had to cancel its first two league games, against Seton Hall on Friday and Villanova on Monday. The Blue Demons have yet to play a game this season.

The Huskies took their first pause on Nov. 5 and resumed basketball activities 14 days later. They registered a significant victory over USC last Thursday and were looking to build momentum entering league play. But the Huskies now find themselves idle for a significant period.

Hurley isn’t certain how many practices his team will need before returning to action. The Huskies are still scheduled to visit Providence on Dec. 17, but everything is up in the air right now.

Hurley doesn’t know exactly when his team will be back together. Certain coaches, due to contact tracing, can’t be in the office. Certain players are confined to their homes. It’s all a guessing game.

“Not even having the ability to practice or be together as a group is something that you’re concerned for their mental, emotional well-being more than anything right now,” Hurley said. “The players are frustrated, the coaches are absolutely exasperated by the whole thing.”

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