by Daniel Olsen
The entire state has been affected by the global pandemic but perhaps no team in Utah has been impacted as much as the Utah Valley Wolverines. With a state high seven cancellations so far, let’s take a look at how the season has been impacted with these cancellations.
1. The Rust Factor
When a team goes two weeks without playing a basketball game, it’s going to be a rough time. Such was the case when the Wolverines had three straight games cancelled during the second half of December. On the bright side, some players were able to see their families for the holiday season. However, for players and staff affected by the pandemic or who lived far away from family, this wasn’t possible.
These three games were scheduled to be played against Idaho State, Air Force and SD Christian respectively. UVU would have been favored in all three of those games. As of today, they are ranked ahead of each of these teams in KenPom. UVU is still ranked in the mid-200 range though. That’s about the bottom third of the NCAA. It just shows what the selection committee think of one-bid leagues like the WAC. UVU would have to go undefeated to get a single-digit seed as an at-large.
2. Missed opportunities
What exactly happens if UVU doesn’t have this many games cancelled? It’s possible they might have at least one more loss on their schedule. Stanford, the alma mater of UVU coach Mark Madsen, is regarded as a high second-tier team or low first-tier in most systems. There’s no shame in losing to them. Yes, their non-conference at 2-4 is bad and a loss to Stanford would put them at 2-5 with zero Division I wins outside of the WAC.
On the other hand, Stanford even on the schedule helps UVU more than hurts. If they win that game, they would be catapulted into the conversation for a postseason tournament. After beating Seattle on a game-winner, UVU did not get the chance to follow that up with a chance to sweep the Redhawks. They also had both games against Chicago State recently cancelled.
If UVU wins those three conference games and wins at least two of the four non-conference games, then their resume looks more like a college resume if we were to compare this to a job interview. Right now it looks more like a high school resume to no fault of their own. Ever since the Crosstown Clash with BYU, it’s clear that UVU is good in the WAC, but needs to win their conference tournament to get a good postseason bid.
It is not fun at all to get sick but the effects of COVID-19 can definitely impact the mental and physical aspects of the game of basketball. While their cancellations were mostly due to issues within their opponent’s teams, it is still possible that some UVU players or staff were affected by the virus during those long cancellation periods. Even if everyone is completely, it’s still tough to get mentally and physically ready for a game following cancellations.
Basketball isn’t the only sport affected by this. For avid runners, it may be hard to find the motivation to continue exercising when marathons and other races keep getting cancelled. The Wolverines will just have to keep practicing and be prepared. Whether their name is called to play a game, or more games get cancelled, it doesn’t matter. Just be ready.
The Wolverines could not control their circumstances but they can control their attitude going forward. Despite their overall record, they only have one loss in the conference and have plenty of games coming up. Look for their double-header against in-state rival Southern Utah University next week!
Featured Image Courtesy of Utah Valley Athletics ©