Twenty days will have passed between the last time MSU men’s hoops took the court to fall to Purdue, 55-54, and their next scheduled matchup against Rutgers on Jan. 28.
The program has been forced to postpone three consecutive matchups throughout the last week due to positive COVID-19 cases within their team and staff.
In its initial scheduling, the Big Ten and its teams strategically planned break periods into each school's schedule to accommodate for anticipated postponements. Some schools have already taken advantage of this, as two of Penn State's previously postponed matchups against Rutgers and Wisconsin have been rescheduled for late January.
The Spartans will look to do the same thing with their matchups against Iowa, Indiana and Illinois, but the timing won’t work out so well.
Six days fell between the Spartans' matchup against Indiana and Illinois.
That’s the largest span between games in the Spartans' schedule behind the gap between their game against Maryland on Feb. 28 and Michigan on March 7. Besides that, the remainder of the Spartans' schedule has the green and white playing with three or four days between each game.
“We all had these breaks," Head Coach Tom Izzo said on Monday. "…That’s why we played all those games early in December, that’s why we played on Christmas, so we’d have some breaks. The problem is last week and this week were two of our breaks. … So, from here on out we at least have two or three games a week anyway.”
With minimal “wiggle room” in their schedule, MSU will most likely be looking toward the end of their schedule to book their matchups, but then again their availability will be contingent on whether or not their opponent is available too.
Izzo said he told his team that with the rescheduling there would be a good chance his squad would be playing 14 games in a span of 32-33 days, a format that aligns similarly with that of an NBA team.
"There’ll be no whistle blowing in the auxiliary gym," Izzo said. "We’ll be in a hotel playing one game (and) flying to the next place. It’ll be an NBA schedule. That’s the first time they laughed and cheered this morning. No Izzo, no practices, so we tried to make light of that — I did — anyway, and I think it was good.”
Regardless, a rescheduled match isn’t promised. The MSU football program learned that when their first matchup against Maryland was canceled only to have their rescheduled matchup with the Terrapins several weeks later called off as well. Men's hoops dealt with that too when their non-conference matchup against Virginia as a part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge was postponed earlier this season, only to never be made up.
There is also the possibility of the Spartans taking on a different opponent to continue to fulfill the number of games in a full regular-season schedule even if it means seeing an opponent they might not have been originally scheduled against.
NCAA football saw this happen when Coastal Carolina replaced Liberty, who had to cancel due to COVID-19 issues, with BYU in early December. That could happen to the Spartans with Northwestern, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Penn State or Maryland, all of which are only listed once on the schedule while all other Big Ten opponents include both a home and away matchups.
Scheduling will also work around the Big Ten Tournament, which is scheduled for March 10-14 as well as the NCAA Tournament starting on March 18.
“I just know this: I think players want to play, I think coaches want to play, I think the Big Ten wants us to play, I think the media wants us to play and I think the fans want us to play if everything is as safe as it could be,” Izzo said. “That’s all I’m looking forward to, playing as many games as we can as safe as we can play.”
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