The official announcement was made at 11:35 a.m. ET, just 90 minutes before what was going to be the 43rd matchup in college basketball history between thein the AP poll.
According to a statement released by both schools, a Gonzaga player, and somebody else in the Zags' traveling party, tested positive for COVID-19. So what was going to be the 43rd matchup in college basketball history between the teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the AP poll will instead go down as the first No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown in college basketball history to be canceled by a global pandemic.
"We're disappointed to not be able to play one of the most-anticipated games of the season, but we are following the advice of public health officials," read a joint statement attributed to Gonzaga coach Mark Few and Baylor coach Scott Drew. "When we decided to play during a pandemic, our priorities were protecting the health and safety of student-athletes and following public health guidelines, and we're proud of how both programs have held true to those promises. There are much greater issues in this world than not being able to play a basketball game, so we're going to continue praying for everyone who has been affected by this pandemic."
Far as statements go, that's the correct tone. Shortened up, it acknowledges that calling this game off stinks but that it was the right thing to do. And, undeniably, it was. Anybody arguing otherwise, 10 months into a pandemic that's already killed at least 278,000 Americans, and with hospitalizations up 12.8% over the past week, and deaths up 35.0% over the past week, is too boneheaded to even acknowledge.
And please shove all survival-rate comments.
Everybody involved in the decision to call this game off understands the survival rate connected to COVID-19, especially the survival rate for young and strong Division I athletes. Whichever player tested positive will almost certainly be fine and back on the court later this month -- but that's not the point. The point is that nobody wants a basketball game to turn into a super-spreader event. And, besides that, the people who quote survival rates like there's some pass-fail bar connected to this virus still just do not get it.
There's a lot of stuff between living and dying.
My wife got COVID-19 last month. She's in her 30s. So we were never concerned about her dying. But she was knocked completely off of her feet for five days. She said it's the worst she's ever felt. She's still dealing with unusual fatigue. She's lost her sense of taste and smell. So she survived, but at what cost?
I talked to a Division I men's basketball coach Saturday morning whose son is fighting COVID-19 right now. He's young, which makes the risk of hospitalization nearly non-existent. But, I'm told, "he's very sick and can't get out of bed." So, just like my wife, yeah, he'll almost certainly survive. But that doesn't mean the experience isn't currently miserable for him. And, beyond that, we still don't completely understand the possible long-term effects of this virus. So schools erring on the side of caution remains wise.
Bottom line, this is how the season will unfold.
I advocated nearly four months ago for conference-only schedules played inside bubbles -- and, to be clear, that sentence is not designed to be interpreted as "I told you so." I understand creating conference-only bubbles isn't as simple as typing conference-only bubbles. It's complex and very expensive. My only point is that once schools decided to bounce around the country and play outside of bubbles, constant postponements and cancellations were always guaranteed. So while Gonzaga-Baylor is the most significant so far, it certainly won't be the last. To date, roughly 21% of the college basketball games scheduled have been postponed or canceled. And we're just 11 days into the season.
So buckle up!
As I've said many times, I was always certain a season would start -- and I'm still confident the season will be completed and a champion crowned, if only because not having a 2021 NCAA Tournament would be financially devastating for too many entities. So, rest assured, college basketball will reach its finish line, one way or another. But, it's been clear for a while now, the ride from here to there is going to be bumpy.