Michigan's entire athletic department including its men's basketball team in the midst of a banner season, is going on a two-week pause after officials discovered cases of a COVID-19 variant in the department, the school announced Saturday. The news was first reported by The Michigan Daily The cases are of the B.1.1.7. variant, a strain that is "more highly transmissible" of the coronavirus, according to the CDC.

Five cases of the B.1.1.7. COVID-19 variant have been confirmed in Michigan's athletic department with 15 more presumed positive cases, according to The Daily. The state health department confirmed Saturday that the variant was present in Michigan and at the the University of Michigan, noting that the variant "spreads more easily between people."

The news comes as the Wolverines' men's basketball program is ranked No. 7 nationally and sitting atop the Big Ten standings with a 13-1 (7-1 Big Ten) record following Friday's 70-53 win at Purdue

Due to the pause, the following games are postponed: 

  • Jan. 27 at Penn State
  • Jan. 30 vs. Indiana
  • Feb. 3 at Northwestern
  • Feb. 6 vs. Michigan State 

The Michigan women's basketball team is 10-1 (5-1 Big Ten) and ranked No. 11. 

The discovery of the variant at Michigan and the program's pause underscore the sense of nervousness in college basketball over what the next few weeks could hold as the nation continues to grapple with the pandemic. 

To this point, the college basketball season has been conducted largely without everyday students on campus as many universities did not require students to return to campus following Thanksgiving break. But with some campuses again populated with students, there is concern that it will be increasingly difficult to insulate athletes from COVID-19 as the postseason approaches.