Ohio’s new health directive is out and, in it, everyone gets the go ahead to play. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the restrictions are severe and are going to have a major impact on how the basketball season goes forward.
Team sidelines are going to look different
For starters, everyone on the bench is going to be at least six feet apart. Thinking about mumbling under your breath to your teammate about your playing time? Be prepared for Coach Steele to hear, because you are essentially going to have to yell. This will help with another edict: no touching outside the area of play. No high-fives, no huddles, no congregating of any sort. This extends to practice, where it is recommended that nothing be repeated extensively. Rebounding drills may look different.
Players are also encouraged not to share towels, water bottles, face coverings, or balls. Yes, equipment is not to be shared “to the extent possible.” How any of this will work with a player needing a drink or with a shootaround before a game is not explained.
A single confirmed case could cripple a team
Any confirmed case and anyone who had close contact (within six feet for 15 minutes) with a confirmed case must self-quarantine for 14 days. For a basketball team that means that one case is essentially going to remove his roommate, close friends, and anyone in his practice group. It will be absolutely imperative that no one around the Musketeers come down with Covid. Before returning to play the infected person must pass a medical exam to clear them given the ongoing cardiac and pulmonary issues common with the virus.
Say last New Year’s Eve Paul Scruggs had come down with Covid. His roommate (Tyrique, we’ll say) and his close friend Naji Marshall are both out due to the fact they eat together and live together. KyKy Tandy and Bryce Moore also must miss time due to being in the same position group in practice. Xavier now has five players out, leaving them with barely a team for at least the next three games by state mandate. Unlike the MLB, Ohio provides no chance to return to play based on negative tests at this point.
Attendance will be greatly curtailed
Cintas will see no more than 300 spectators at any point this season. Seating will be assigned an accessed by one way entrances and exits. Spectator groups will be no larger than four or a family unit. All of those groups must maintain six feet of distance. Spectators will be required to wear a mask at all times. Bathrooms will be open, as will concessions that can comply with all of the other health orders issued by the state. There will be no student section, no large blocks of fans, no significant spectator experience of any sort.
It gets wearying typing constant updates about the virus and basketball, but that is where we are at this point. When anything more Xavier specific comes out, we’ll be sure to let you know. God willing, this season will happen.