Super Bowl morning is always filled with emotions of excitement and anxiety, as the most anticipated sporting event of the year is set to take place only hours away. With the ongoing pandemic altering every aspect of life including sports, this Super Bowl Sunday served as a symbol of hope that things are getting better and that our lives can soon transition back to a familiar sense of normal.
The UMass Men’s Basketball team went to sleep the previous night feeling extremely happy and confident coming off one of their best victories in years, defeating Rhode Island on the road shorthanded without A10 POY candidate and Karl Malone Award nominee, Tre Mitchell, and starting PG Noah Fernandes.
“What a win and a gutsy performance,” said head coach Matt McCall. “You have to give our players a tremendous amount of credit. There was a lot of adversity in the game, and they didn’t flinch for a second. They battled and found a way to get a huge win from top to bottom. It was a total team win on the road against a very talented team. I’m proud of our guys.”
UMass also completed their first sweep of URI since the 2013-14 season, and was off to their best start in A10 play since 2006-07.
UMass Athletics Shutdown
When the Minutemen basketball team woke up Sunday morning, they opened their phones to many notifications and text messages alerting them of very unfortunate news.
UMass Amherst Campus COVID-19 Risk Level Raised From “Elevated” to “High”
As part of public health measures implemented by campus, athletic activity for all sports programs will pause.
🔗: https://t.co/eLcXkQVPNP pic.twitter.com/9qkHanc5wK
— UMass Athletics (@UMassAthletics) February 7, 2021
The Athletics shutdown stemmed from a campus decision to increase the COVID-19 risk level from “Elevated” to “High.” This decision was made after UMass shattered their single-day case record during the previous week. Contact tracing discovered that a large majority of the new cases came from students who attended or came in contact with students who attended a party at the UMass Theta Chi fraternity chapter.
Two videos obtained by the Daily Collegian show large parties at Theta Chi, confirmed by several sources to be held Jan. 29 and Jan. 30 — the first weekend students returned to campus.
By @mattberg33 @sophieegardnerrhttps://t.co/VAGOXG68Ry
— Daily Collegian (@MDCollegian) February 6, 2021
This is now UMass’ third pause of the season. Their first pause resulted from a positive test from Tier-1 staff on November 17th and resumed activities on December 5th. Their second pause came after their game against Davidson, who’s positive test shut UMass down on January 26th due to contact tracing protocols until returning to practice January 29th.
With all Athletics programs shutdown through February 21st, UMass will have their next four games cancelled:
- Vs Dayton
- At VCU
- Vs St. Bonaventure
- At Duquesne
The team is not allowed to practice as a team during the shutdown. UMass is scheduled to play two more games before the A10 tournament, with a third game likely scheduled between those two games.
- At Saint Joe’s
- Game TBA
- Vs Richmond
In order to be eligible for the A10 tournament, a team must play at least 13 games. UMass has currently played 11 games with 2 left on the schedule as of today. Assuming UMass’ Athletics shutdown ends after the mandatory 14-day minimum, the Minutemen should be able to play the necessary games in order to qualify.
UMass entered this week #8 in our A10 power rankings. Although their sweep over URI is impressive, they have not had the opportunity to play against any teams ranked above them besides Davidson. The Minutemen (6-2) have swept La Salle, Fordham, and Rhode Island. Their only conference losses came in 2OT against George Mason where UMass led by 4 points with 36 seconds left in regulation, and a close home loss to Davidson where UMass led by double digits.
Hello SLU! 👋 Welcome back to #1 in our power rankings 📈
📰 https://t.co/OPp2A74qby pic.twitter.com/dPXxObtBov
— A10 Talk (@A10Talk) February 8, 2021
The Atlantic 10 has yet to release their plan for seeing teams for the conference tournament, although an announcement is expected within the next two weeks. UMass will likely need to beat Richmond and win at least two A10 tournament games in order to be considered for any post-season tournaments such as the CBI or CIT. After Saint Louis struggled in their first two games following their lengthy shutdown, UMass will need to quickly shake off the rust and get back to playing their best basketball of the season. The Minutemen will be facing their toughest opponents of the season as March approaches.