Wright State out at Illinois, Bobcats may miss a non-conference slot

The Ohio University men’s basketball finally released its non-conference schedule on Saturday.

The list, however, had already been impacted by coronavirus issues before its release.

Ohio, 17-15 in 2019-20, was set to open the season on Wednesday at Illinois as one of four teams in a round-robin style event hosted by the Illini. The Bobcats, like everyone else, are limited to just 25 games regular-season dates this season. Ohio athletics director Julie Cromer, and Illinois, confirmed the Bobcats’ spot in the event this week.

Ohio was to play in-state, non-league foe Wright State on Wednesday, match up with North Carolina A&T on Thanksgiving, then wrap up the week with a Friday afternoon bout against preseason No. 8 Illinois.

But COVID-19 issues have manifested within the Wright State program, leading the Raiders to back out of their appearance in the Illinois event at the State Farm Center next week.

The west side of Ohio University’s Convocation Center as seen on the evening of Nov. 20, 2020. Photo by Jason Arkley

Citing a lack of available players as a result of positive COVID-19 tests, quarantines because of close contact issues and injuries, Wright State won’t be traveling to Illinois and won’t be playing in any of the three games scheduled.

“As we have seen this summer and fall with professional sports and college football, disruption is likely while competing in a pandemic,” Wright State athletics director Bob Grant said in a statement. “We must continue to hold the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches and staff as our top priority as we navigate through this current athletic landscape.”

Illinois was able to get Chicago State in as a replacment for Wright State in the four-team field. Ohio will open the 2020-21 season at Illinois, against Chicago State, at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

The Cougars, meanwhile, were scheduled to host IUPUI on Wednesday, but presumably that game has been canceled or moved. That game was the only home game in 2020 for Chicago State.

From the Bobcat perspective, there’s been little change. Illinois searched for a fill-in opponent, which has been commonplace this month as events have had to find replacements for exempt multiple-team events (MTEs) from South Dakota to Connecticut as various teams have dropped out due to virus issues or concerns.

Chicago State isn’t as well regarded as Wright State, the Horizon League regular-season champion last season.

With only five non-conference dates to work with, as the MAC is playing 20 conference games this season, Ohio was able to squeeze in six non-conference games thanks to the MTE exemption.

The Bobcats’ official schedule gives OU six tuneups before the MAC opener on Dec. 29 at Miami.

Ohio’s first home game of the season is set for Sunday, Dec. 6 in a 2 p.m. start against Cleveland State in the Convocation Center. One week later, the Bobcats travel to Marshall for a game at the Cam Henderson Center. The ‘Cats final non-league games of the year is on Friday, Dec. 18 against visiting Mississippi Valley State at the Convo in another 2 p.m. start.

OU also released its women’s basketball non-conference schedule on Friday. The Bobcat women open the season at home on Wednesday night against Liberty, then will host No. 22 Notre Dame in the Convo on Friday, Nov. 27 beginning at 12 p.m.

Ohio’s attendance policy for home football games this fall includes stipulations against any general public attendance. A basketball specific attendance policy has not yet been issued by the university.

The Ohio women also have road non-conference games at North Carolina A&T (Dec. 5) and at West Virginia (Dec. 20).

The Ohio women’s scheduled home games in 2020 against Ohio State and Syracuse are expected to be played in 2021, said a program spokesperson.

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