What needs to happen for Ohio State to host Illinois State? Chris Holtmann explains
The fate of Ohio State’s scheduled season-opening game against Illinois State hangs in the balance of one positive COVID test.
In a Monday afternoon video conference, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said the Redbirds will arrive Tuesday and be tested for the virus. Assuming all tests come back negative, the same procedure will take place Wednesday morning in advance of that day’s 2 p.m. tip.
One positive test along the way will result in the cancellation of the basketball season opener.
“Both teams need to have clean tests these next couple days,” Holtmann said. “My understanding is if there’s a positive test, the game will not happen. Understanding that in nonconference that’s the risk you take, that if there’s a positive test the game won’t happen, but we’re optimistic that because of the regular testing that’s happening that we’ll be in good shape.”
The NCAA has mandated that every team must test at least three times per week in order to play basketball games this season. Within the Big Ten, teams are tested six days a week, and the protocols for canceling a conference game as opposed to a nonconference game are different largely for that reason. A number of Missouri Valley League teams were testing for COVID-19 just once per week during much of the summer and fall.
“As far as I understand right now, because teams are under different testing protocols that is really a nonconference decision,” Holtmann said. “Conference games will be different. Because we’re in regular testing as a program ourselves, I don’t believe that that would necessarily mean that our game would be off if we had one positive test on our side. I think it all involves contact tracing and eliminating the spread and the concern about that.”
Those types of issues and questions were part of conversations Holtmann said the Buckeyes had with each of their nonconference opponents once games were agreed upon.
The games themselves will look different on multiple fronts. Ohio State said Friday that it will allow no fans, including family members, to attend games for at least a 28-day period. Holtmann said he spoke to his players about the impact of that decision on consecutive practice days because it was such an important change for the Buckeyes.
Players will have their seats spread out while on the bench, Holtmann said.
“There’s going to be a lack of connectivity that you’re going to have to fight,” he said. “I think the enthusiasm and energy in the building is all going to be created by your group. No question, that is going to be something that’s going to be important to us, both home and road.”
As of Monday, Holtmann said the only Ohio State player who would be out would be Seth Towns, who continues to recover from knee surgery in January. He is making progress, though.
“I couldn’t tell you right now when we think he’ll be ready to go in game action,” Holtmann said. “He has done more in practice in the last couple weeks. We’ve begun to add him into some live action, but I couldn’t give you a timeline right now.”
Fourth-year junior Musa Jallow, who did not play last season because of two ankle surgeries, could play Wednesday.
“He’ll be a game-time decision,” Holtmann said. “He’s making progress. We’ve been able to get him in more live work, but it’ll ultimately be a game-time decision in terms of his availability and the amount of minutes we feel comfortable he can play.”