- College basketball is attempting to complete the 2020-21 regular season and playoffs during the winter resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Assuming they can get that far, the NCAA has confirmed that the Championship Tournament will be played in a ‘bubble’.
- Expect dozens of teams to throw in the towel at some point in the season, particularly those who are non-competitive.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives and sports betting is no exception. For a handicapper, keeping track of the progression of the virus as it spreads throughout teams and leagues has been almost a full time job in itself. In addition, the entire gaming industry has been an easy scapegoat for power mad politicians hoping that they can give the appearance that they’re ‘doing something’ about the COVID-19 pandemic. With the majority of the sports betting ecosystem online, however, the wagering component has gone on relatively unscathed during the entire process.
It’s the sports themselves that have been a complete mess. If you think that the 2020 college football season has been ugly because of the COVID mess you better prepare yourself for an even bigger dumpster fire as college basketball tries to crawl through the regular season and playoffs. We’ve already seen major programs give up on their non-conference schedule, marquee matchups cancelled and at least one big women’s basketball program give up on the season entirely. With no signs that the situation is improving as teams head into conference play you can start expecting men’s teams–particularly those who have no realistic chance of conference or national tournament success–to call it a season. There are even two teams–Siena and Merrimack–that are purportedly trying to play this season but have yet to get a single game in the books.
Late last week, without much fanfare a Division 1 men’s basketball program suspended their team activities for the season. Not that there was any reason to get excited about the decision of Chicago State University to throw in the towel on 2020-2021 with a record of 0-9. They didn’t only lose nine games they were for the most part completely non-competitive in them going 2-7 against the spread. Their only covers came as double digit underdogs against opponents that could have ‘phoned it in’ during the second half to let them inside the number. They lost by 10 at Northern Illinois on December 18, covering as a +16.5 underdog. They lost by 18 to Eastern Illinois on December 3, covering as +26 point underdogs.
They also had the dubious distinction of being ranked as the worst team in Division 1 hoops by Jeff Sagarin’s ratings:
Maybe that has something to do with the team’s decision to mercifully end their season early? It sure looks like it. They’ve had a few issues with COVID-19 but none nearly as bad as many teams that are still soldiering on. They didn’t exactly go out fighting either–they caught a ‘break’ before they gave up on the year when they were unable to play in a game against Iowa State that would have been an almost certain loss that would have dropped them to 0-10.
Chicago State athletic director Elliott Charles announced the capitulation with this terse quote in a press release posted on the school athletics website:
“It was a difficult decision, but a necessary decision in order to prioritize the health, wellness, and academic success of the student athletes.”
At least he didn’t go with ‘it’s all for the families’ like other schools. The bit about academic success is funny–Chicago State isn’t exactly Yale so it’s doubtful that the players will be returning to their pathbreaking cold fusion research. What’s really mystifying is how head coach Lance Irvin still has a job. Irvin bailed on the team before the season started due to COVID-19 concerns. Irvin *did* guide the team to a 96-82 win over UMKC in early March 2018–significant as it broke a 40 game Division 1 losing streak. Chicago State finished 3-29 overall and 1-13 in conference in 2018, 3-29 overall and 0-16 in conference in 2019 and 4-25 overall and 0-14 in conference in 2020.
The press release does note that “the remaining 14 programs, including Women’s Basketball, will continue with their regular schedule and competitions”. This is as close to throwing the men’s hoops team under the bus as they were allowed to do. The fact that the Women’s Hoop team is still out their battling the virus and opponents is significant as they likely share many of the same facilities as the men’s team. Their record in recent years isn’t any better than their male counterparts but at least they’re still out there making a go of it.