MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – (December 11, 2020) — So far, we are 16 days into the new basketball season. This season will be remembered for the impact that COVID-19 has put on games.
West Virginia has already had one postponement, one cancellation and two spontaneous-scheduled games.
The postponement was Youngstown State (assuming the game gets rescheduled) and Robert Morris was the cancellation.
WVU has been able to schedule games with No. 1-ranked Gonzaga and now the reigning CUSA Regular Season Conference Champions North Texas.
2020 comes with a lot of uncertainty and overcoming conflicts. WVU coach Bob Huggins and operations director Josh Eilert have done a fantastic job at adapting to schedule changes.
The first situation occurred about two weeks ago when Huggins was watching ESPN in South Dakota. The future Hall of Famer saw on the ticker at the bottom of the screen that Tennessee wasn’t able to play Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic the week after due to COVID cases within their program.
So, Huggins did what not many NCAA coaches can do. He called ESPN and told them that his team can travel to Indianapolis and play Gonzaga on Dec. 2. It took a whole 15 minutes until Huggins got the word that they’re in.
“They needed a game, and I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve got some very dear friends at ESPN, so I thought, ‘what the heck? Let’s go play Gonzaga,'” Huggins said.
The Mountaineers ended up losing that game but it didn’t hurt WVU in any way. They were able to play great competition against a team who can win the national championship and gave them a fight.
The other situation occurred on Tuesday night at 11 p.m. when West Virginia Athletics announced that their game with Robert Morris for the next day was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols in the RMU program.
Eilert was facing a schedule with now a gap of seven days in-between games. From Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, the WVU Operations Director called up to 50 schools hoping to play a game before the Richmond game on Sunday.
Luckily, after many voicemails and teams not being able to make the trip to Morgantown, Eilert was able to find a great opponent for WVU to play.
The North Texas Mean Greens.
Eilert knew UNT’s coach Grant McCasland from when he assisted Scott Drew at Baylor. McCasland was so eager to play that they tried to come to Morgantown on Thursday to play but there were no flights for that to make it happen on time.
Luckily, North Texas was able to find a flight in order to play a game at the WVU Coliseum on Friday afternoon.
Coach Huggins is very impressed with how much access Eilert has to everyone’s schedules.
“Josh can get on a laptop and find teams that need games,” Huggins said. “I’m old-school. I pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey do you want to play?'”
“Josh is way, way ahead of me,” Huggins added.
With the circumstances that come playing basketball during a pandemic, it is incredible how quickly the WVU basketball staff is at adjusting and finding new opponents.
They will play anyone at any place and at any time.
Mountaineers will host North Texas on Friday at 3 p.m. to open up the home stretch West Virginia will have for the next week.