BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – For the second time in three weekends, an Indiana road trip north to the state of Michigan has been postponed because of COVID-19 issues. First it was the Michigan State game on Jan. 17, and now it's Saturday's game at Michigan that won't happen.
Nor should they happen.
With only five weeks left in the regular season, there aren't enough gaps to easily replace 13 games that still need to be made up. And that's just a start. That 13 could turn into many more.
Nebraska hasn't played since Jan. 10 and it's next game isn't until Feb. 6. But there's no certainty that they will be ready to play by then. They are still announcing positive tests inside the program. Michigan is shut down for two weeks now, missing four games – at least.
Michigan State hadn't played since Jan. 8 before playing Rutgers on Thursday night. They lost by 30, which shows what can happen when you don't practice as a group for two weeks.
And who's to say there won't be more issues. So let's not worry about playing every last game. In the middle of a pandemic, it shouldn't matter. The goal – the ultimate goal – is to make it to the END of the season, because we know how painful that was last year to not complete the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA Tournament.
Solid plans are in place for all that to happen this March. So let's not being putting kids on planes every other day just to play a full schedule.
Here's what's been lost so far, 25 games
- POSTPONED CONFERENCE GAMES (15)
- Jan. 3 – Wisconsin at Penn State (Played Jan. 27)
- Jan. 5 – Nebraska at Purdue
- Jan. 6 – Penn State at Ohio State
- Jan. 9 – Michigan at Penn State (Scheduled Jan. 27)
- Jan. 12 – Rutgers at Penn State (Played Jan. 21)
- Jan. 13 – Illinois at Nebraska
- Jan. 14 – Michigan State at Iowa (Now Feb. 2)
- Jan. 16 – Nebraska at Maryland
- Jan. 17 – Indiana at Michigan State
- Jan. 20 – Minnesota at Nebraska
- Jan. 23 – Illinois at Michigan State
- Jan. 24 – Nebraska at Iowa
- Jan. 27 – Michigan at Penn State (From Jan. 9)
- Jan. 30 – Penn State at Nebraska
- Jan. 30 – Indiana at Michigan
- Feb. 3 – Michigan at Northwestern
- CANCELED NONCONFERENCE GAMES (10)
- Nov. 25 – Prairie View A&M at Northwestern
- Nov. 25 – Drexel at Penn State
- Dec. 1 – Towson at Maryland
- Dec. 5 – UT-Martin at Illinois
- Dec. 5 – Alabama A&M at Ohio State
- Dec. 5 – Maryland at James Madison
- Dec. 6 — Florida A&M at Nebraska
- Dec. 9 – Michigan State at Virginia
- Dec. 13 – SIU-Edwardsville at Northwestern
- Dec. 16 – Northern Iowa at Wisconsin
As you can see, the Big Ten has done a few things. They rescheduled four of the postponed games and then juggled the dates of a half-dozen games to make it all work. But that was two weeks ago now. They haven't reworked anything else outside of that Michigan State-Iowa game.
Let's zero in close to home first. Indiana would have to reschedule two games so far. But starting on Tuesday with a home game against Illinois, they basically play every third day the rest of the season outside the last week, where they play Michigan on Saturday, Feb. 27 and Purdue on Saturday, March 6.
You'd think that gap would work, but Michigan plays Saturday-Thursday-Sunday already, and that Thursday game is against Iowa, which could be for the league title. Michigan isn't going to want to add a Tuesday game and play four times in eight days.
Michigan State could work, because they play Sunday and Saturday that final week, but keep in mind that the Spartans have two more games to reschedule too. Both might not fit.
After last Sunday's game at Assembly Hall, Indiana's Archie Miller was asked about the schedule going forward, because news of the Michigan postponed had just been released a day earlier.
He doesn't see any reason to force things either.
"I don't know. It seems to me our league in general is starting to get hit a little bit with some new stuff, but it's not all bad,'' Miller said. "You don't have to jam 132 games in just to get them in. The players have been going strong here for a long time, so maybe the layoffs are beneficial. It's hard to go like they've been going.
"I'm sure there are still a lot of options are on the table. Can they reschedule a game and flip it around? Maybe that's something they can do But if they can't and you take a longer pause, that's not all bad either. You just roll with the punches at this point like we did a week ago, and whatever happens happens.''
Players would always rather play games than practice, but it's hard to put it all back together, mostly because there's so much uncertainty. Miller will always fight for his players first.
"I think the big thing is let's make sure we do what's best for the guys,'' Miller said. "Hopefully the Michigan situation isn't crazy serious. Hopefully they can get back at it when they can get back at it.
"There's going to be adjustments like this. This will go all the way through whenever the NCAA Tournament ends. We're going to be dealing with a lot of this.''
The NCAA has done it's part to try to get to the finish line. They condensed the NCAA Tournament a bit, and moved the entire thing to Indiana so they can ''bubble'' every team. After missing the 2020 event, the NCAA literally can't survive without a tournament, so they're doing all they can to keep everyone safe.
The Big Ten might move the Big Ten Tournament to Indianapolis as well, for that same safety reason. That potential four-week run, where teams still alive in the tournament won't leave their hotel rooms other than for practice, will be tough.
Tough, but necessary.
Purdue coach Matt Painter was asked about the topic on Friday. The Boilermakers have missed one game so far – a home game against Nebraska. Missing that one meant Purdue played four games in a row on the road.
He said he thinks the Big Ten Tournament will happen and says he''s unsure what's going to happen with their one missed game. Nebraska has five games to make up – and there's ZERO chance that can be done in its entirety.
"I'm just a coach at Purdue, I don't run the Big Ten Conference and I don't look at every schedule and try to figure that out,'' Painter said. "We haven't had the implications of COVID other than one game (Nebraska) and one player (Sasha Stefanovic, who tested positive and will miss three games.)
"In my opinion, I would think we play our tournament. I don;t see why not. I think that don't get away from playing March Madness or the NCAA Tournament. It makes sense to do that (play the same amount of games), but it's not Priority No. 1.''
Nor should it be. I look at Big Ten football as the perfect example of it. There was at least one game canceled every week after the opener, but we still had a great, memorable season. The two best teams in the Big Ten East were Ohio State and Indiana. They played, and Ohio State won. The two best teams in the West were Northwestern and Iowa, and they played and the Wildcats won There was a conference title and it was all good. There was no need for any kind of asterisks.
If the Big Ten season finished with Michigan 15-3 and, say, Iowa at 15-5, the Michigan is the champ, with no asterisk in my book.
It's a pandemic, folks, and there are other more important things. Do want you can, sure, if adding a game makes sense. But don't turn these players into traveling robots to get it done.
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