College basketball is back — mostly — with nearly 90% of Division I programs having played at least one game since the Nov. 25 restart date. But a number of prominent voices in the game are wondering if it should be with the COVID-19 crisis anything but under control, especially with the physical and mental toll on players who aren’t professionals.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski gave a lengthy and thoughtful answer Tuesday night when asked about playing basketball during the pandemic following the 11th-ranked Blue Devils’ loss to No. 9 Illinois in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge series.
“Anything that’s led by committee is not agile in handling a situation,” he began. “We made an assessment — it’s not like it was well planned — that we were going to start Nov. 25. Basically it was more of a mentality — get as many games in as possible. I would just like, for the mental health and safety of our players and staff, to assess where we’re at.”
No one can say the season has gone off without a hitch, with postponements and cancellations announced on a daily basis. In fact, two other games in the series slated for the same night, Louisville-Wisconsin and N.C. State-Michigan, were called off, and another between Virginia and Michigan State set for Wednesday night also has been postponed.
Mike Krzyzewski wants the NCAA to re-evaluate the college basketball season. (Photo: Rob Kinnan, USA TODAY Sports)
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“Do I think things should be done a little differently? Yeah,” Krzyzewski said. “A lot of kids aren’t going to be going home for Christmas during a time when they should for mental health. We’re just plowing through this. … We should get updates on how many programs are on pause each week, how many new cases there are and not just plow through.
“I know the NCAA is worried about the end game,” he said. “They’re not as worried about the game we’re playing right now.”
Krzyzewski acknowledged some could attribute his answer to the fact that “I just got my butt beat,” but his statement echoes comments made a day earlier by Pittsburgh coach Jeff Capel, a former player and assistant for Krzyzewski.
“These kids are away [from their families] and they’re out and they’re laying it on the line to entertain people. Something just doesn’t feel right about it right now,” Capel told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “One of the things that has come about with all of this since everything happened in March when the season was canceled, I don’t think anyone can say anymore that these young men are amateurs. That’s out the window. They’re not. They absolutely aren’t.”
Contributing: David Thompson, The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer
Follow USA TODAY Sports colleges reporter Eddie Timanus on Twitter @eddietimanus
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