CARBONDALE — SIU's men's basketball team may able to trademark a new phrase before the end of the 2020-21 season: COVID-outs.
Last week, the Salukis chalked up their three scheduled games at the Louisville multi-team event after what the team described as "multiple" positive tests for the coronavirus. By the end of the week, they were one of more than 30 teams that had paused basketball activities because of positive tests, according to Stadium's Jeff Goodman. SIU coach Bryan Mullins said piecing together up to nine non-conference games may be like putting together a baseball schedule.
"We're definitely looking," he said. "I think there are going to be things that happen throughout December, in terms of the college basketball scheduling, and the season, it's going to be very fluid, so, I think there are going to be some options, hopefully. We're kind of open to anything right now."
SIU is now looking at opening the season at Southeast Missouri State in about two weeks, Dec. 2, in Cape Girardeau. The Salukis currently have home games against Southern Mississippi (Dec. 5), Murray State (Dec. 11), and Nicholls (Dec. 23) in addition to the 18-game Missouri Valley Conference slate that starts Dec. 31. SIU has to play at least 13 games to be eligible for the postseason.
Loyola became the fourth team from the Valley to pause activities at least once in the last 30 days on Monday. Bradley, Indiana State and SIU previously have been affected by COVID-19 cases or players with symptoms.
Mullins said with the possibility of so many COVID-outs in the Midwest, the Salukis may hold onto at least one game on their schedule in case something opens up at a moment's notice.
"I think that's going to be the case across the country," he said. "I think there's going to be flexibility in everyone's schedule. I don't know if we will have a final schedule with the maximum amount of games that we're allowed to play in the next week or two, but we will always have some open dates; so if things happen, we can move some stuff around and be able to play against a really good program."
SIU is still actively looking for another multi-team event (MTE) it can drive to. The team does not want to fly commercially, Mullins said, at least through the non-conference portion of its schedule, but there are several major Division I programs within an eight-hour drive. NCAA rules allow teams to play up to 25 games during the season without an MTE, or up to 27 games with an MTE that allows teams to play either two games or three games.
On Twitter: @THefferman
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