David Cox will lead his Rams into a season-opening game against nationally ranked Arizona State
By KEVIN McNAMARA
We expected craziness in college basketball this season and we have indeed gotten it.
In a major shakeup on the scheduling front at Bubbleville at Mohegan Sun, the Rhode Island Rams have been elevated from two solid, mid-major games into the majors.
Instead of opening the season against Stephen F. Austin and Towson, the Rams will replace national power Baylor in the 2k Empire Classic. The No. 2 ranked Bears had a coronavirus testing issue that their opponent, No. 18 Arizona State objected to. Arizona State reportedly planned to withdraw due to health concerns after Bears coach Scott Drew announced Sunday that he tested positive for COVID-19.
Instead Baylor withdrew and Bubbleville organizers looked for a last-ditch replacement and found the Rams ready and willing. On Wednesday the Rams will open the 2k Empire Classic at 7p.m. against Bobby Hurley’s Aztecs. Third-ranked Villanova and Boston College will follow with the winners and losers facing each other Thanksgiving night. All games are scheduled for ESPN.
Drew is among several Power 5 conference basketball coaches who have tested positive for COVID-19, including Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and most recently Tennessee’s Rick Barnes. Tennessee reported multiple positive tests from its team Monday and instantly cancelled its opening two games in the Volunteer Classic against Charlotte and VCU.
With the unpredictability of virus testing and contact tracing, scheduling this season is an uneasy chore. Teams that produce a positive test result are instantly shutting things down for as much as 14 days. Those stoppages are bound to happen on a weekly basis throughout the country.
That will set up some odd situations. For example if the Rams and Eagles both lose Wednesday (and they’ll be underdogs against Top 25 foes), they’ll play Thursday. That scenario will not jeopardize a scheduled URI at BC game on Dec. 4.
After playing Wednesday and Thursday, the Rams will stay at Mohegan and face South Florida Saturday evening and the University of San Francisco Sunday. Both of those games are part of the Air Force Reserve Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off.
In what can only be termed as a twist of fate, this significant schedule strength boost for Rhody wipes out any need to play Providence College. The Rams were bitter that PC coach Ed Cooley backed out of the game because he felt the Friar schedule was strong enough this season without a game against URI.