Pandemic wreaking havoc on college basketball season

Dec 27, 2021, 9:25 AM | Updated: 11:27 pm
Duke's Jeremy Roach, right, guards Virginia Tech's Storm Murphy during the second half of an NCAA c...

Duke's Jeremy Roach, right, guards Virginia Tech's Storm Murphy during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

(AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

This basketball season is starting to feel a lot like the last one.

Games are being postponed or canceled seemingly by the minute. Schedulers are scrambling to find replacements. Dozens of teams have gone on COVID-19 pause.

The Atlantic Coast Conference scrapped three games, including two with No. 2 Duke. The Big East ditched on four games, including No. 23 Xavier against UConn, and four more on the women’s side. The No. 2 Stanford and No. 4 Arizona women also had games postponed this week due to COVID-19 protocols.

And those were just the changes announced on Monday.

Some teams have been able to find quick replacements, like No. 6 Kansas, which swapped out for Nevada Wednesday night after Harvard was hit with COVID-19 protocols.

Other teams have not, extending their Christmas breaks.

There are still a few notable games that are still on this week — at least for now.

BIG WEDNESDAY

Wednesday, as it stands now, will have three games pairing ranked opponents.

The best of the bunch could be No. 14 Tennessee at No. 19 Alabama.

The Vols (9-2) won their biggest game of the season last week, stifling No. 9 Arizona defensively before holding off a late charge to win 77-73.

Alabama (9-3) has lost two of three, including a one-point setback to Davidson at home that dropped the Tide nine spots in this week’s poll.

Another SEC opener pits No. 11 Auburn at No. 16 LSU in a showdown between two of the nation’s best defensive teams.

The LSU Tigers (12-0) are one of five remaining undefeated Division I teams after blowing out Lipscomb in their final game before the Christmas break. LSU is No. 1 in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and is holding teams to 54.1 points per game, second nationally.

The Auburn Tigers (11-1) are No. 10 in defensive efficiency and have allowed one team to score more than 70 points.

The Big East has four teams in the AP Top 25 and two will face off when No. 15 Seton Hall plays at No. 21 Providence.

The Pirates (9-1) have won seven straight since losing to No. 13 Ohio State, and the Friars (11-1) are on a six-game run since losing to Virginia. Seton Hall also faces No. 22 Villanova on Saturday.

BAYLOR ROLLING

Baylor was the unanimous pick at No. 1 in this week’s poll, holding down the top spot for the third straight week.

The Bears (11-0) have shown no letup after winning their first national championship in April, steamrolling one opponent after another, including victories over No. 10 Michigan State and Villanova.

Baylor will face a huge test on Saturday, opening Big 12 play at Iowa State (12-0) in a matchup of undefeated teams.

The Cyclones are seventh nationally in defensive efficiency and eighth in scoring defense, holding teams to 56.1 points per game.

Baylor, which also plays Northwestern State on Tuesday, is sixth in scoring defense (55.8 points per game) and fourth in defensive efficiency, but also fifth in offensive efficiency.

The matchup has the makings to be one of the best games of the year — if it happens. The way things are going so far, who knows.

___

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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Pandemic wreaking havoc on college basketball season