Utah State basketball now playing VCU after COVID-19 knocks Wichita State out of Crossover Classic
Utah State head coach Craig Smith yells toward the court against Saint Mary's during the second half of a NCAA college basketball game Monday, Nov. 19, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Utah State men’s basketball coach Craig Smith addressed head-on what has become a revolving door of teams scheduled to play at this week’s Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic in South Dakota, of which the Aggies are one.
“It might be foreshadowing for what can be coming down the pike,” he said at his press conference Monday. “We’ve had to adapt and adjust. We told our guys from Day 1, ‘Guys let’s not take anything for granted.’”
If he wasn’t so good at coaching basketball, Smith might be able to get a job as a soothsayer. Because sure enough, on Day 1 of USU’s season, they will have a different opponent than they were expecting.
Just hours after Smith made those comments, Wichita State — USU’s original opponent for Wednesday’s first round — announced it would be pulling out of the tournament “due to multiple positive COVID-19 tests within the team travel party.” The Aggies are now scheduled to play Virginia Commonwealth
at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D., in a game to be aired on ESPN2.
“I can’t say in my 25 years [that] we’ve landed and found out we’re playing a different opponent,” Smith said Tuesday.
UTAH STATE VS. VCU
At the Bad Boy Mowers Classic, Sioux Falls, S.D.
When • Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. MST
TV • ESPN2
The Shockers are the sixth team to withdraw from the tournament. The others include Dayton, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Creighton and Utah. The Utes withdrew in October, citing concerns about South Dakota’s rising case rate
. The state still has the third highest number of cases per capita per week in the United States.
Tournament organizers announced Monday that fans would not be allowed at the event.
Smith, who coached the University of South Dakota men before joining the Aggies, said USU approached tournament organizers about playing in the event. He said no final decisions were made until the school reviewed the event’s COVID-19 measures. He added that he feels confident in the safety protocols put in place at the Sanford Pentagon.
“We knew the hospitality that would be provided here and the big thing was to find out the plan,” he said. “After finding out the plan, we knew we would be so secure.”
Wichita State learned of the positive cases after its plane touched down in Sioux Falls on Monday evening. The tournament’s policy is to remove any teams from the tournament if a member of its traveling party tests positive for the coronavirus.
USU now has a day to prepare for VCU. The Rams were scheduled to play in the Volunteer Classic this week, but that event was canceled after a COVID-19 outbreak within the Tennessee program.
VCU last year finished 18-13 overall and 8-10 in the Atlantic 10 conference. Its top returning player is 6-foot-3 sophomore guard Nah’Shon Hyland. A member of the A-10 all-rookie team last season, he started the final nine games for the Rams and averaged 9.0 points and 2.2 rebounds per game.
The winner of the game is slated to play South Dakota State or West Virginia on Thanksgiving at 12:30 p.m. The other side of the bracket includes Northern Iowa, Western Kentucky, St. Mary’s and Memphis.
Smith said he’s not worrying about who his team will play, he’s just rolling with it.
“Let’s just feel fortunate that we all feel safe, that we’re up there to be able play and compete and have an opportunity to have a season,” he said. “And you just don’t know, so you have to be able to adjust and you have to be able to adapt.”