The Mid-American Conference and Ohio University have charted a course for the Bobcats to return to play following a COVID-19 induced break earlier this month.
Ohio (11-6, 7-4 MAC) has not played since an 83-69 win at Central Michigan on Tuesday, Feb. 2. Positive COVID-19 tests and/or contact tracing then gutted the Bobcats’ roster to the point where it was unable to field a competitive team.
What followed was a string of postponements as Ohio saw games at Bowling Green and Western Michigan, and home games with Eastern Michigan, Akron and Central Michigan all pulled from the schedule.
Neither Ohio nor the MAC addressed the Bobcats’ schedule, or potential return, until Wednesday. OU has had seven conference games postponed this season due to their own, or the opponent’s, issues with roster size caused by COVID-19 protocol.
That lack of information changed Wednesday when the MAC released a revised schedule for the final two weeks of the season.
Here’s the upshot from the Bobcats’ perspective: It could’ve been a lot worse.
Ohio’s next scheduled game is Tuesday, Feb. 23 at home against Akron. The game will come a full three weeks after the Bobcats’ last contest. It also marks the start of three games in five days as Ohio will also host Eastern Michigan on Thursday, Feb. 25 and take on visiting Buffalo on Saturday, Feb. 27. Start times for Akron and EMU have yet to be set.
It’s a tight run of games but the Bobcats will get the benefit of playing all three at home.
The final week of the season will have Ohio playing at Kent State on Tuesday, March 2, and then at Bowling Green on Friday, March 5 in what is presumably the regular-season finale.
As currently constructed, Ohio will only make up three of the seven postponed games this season (vs. EMU, vs. Akron, at BG). The MAC had previously gone on record as saying that it was a priority to make sure every conference team played every other conference opponent at least once during the season, which explains why the EMU game was one of the games Ohio HAD to make up.
As it stands now, Ohio will NOT play the second game of home-and-homes this season with Miami, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan and Central Michigan. Three of those teams – NIU, WMU, CMU – are not expected to make the eight-team cutoff for the MAC Tournament.
Ohio had won four straight games and placed itself firmly in contention for the tournament and a possible high seed before its hiatus. Currently, the Bobcats are slotted fourth in the overall standings behind Toledo (12-3), Akron (11-3) and Kent State (11-4). Toledo and Akron have already clinched spots in the MAC Tournament, set to begin Wednesday, March 10 in Cleveland.
Ohio has not been forthcoming with any details about its pause, from the number of positive tests within the program to the organized team events (if any) since the pause began the first week in February.
The university’s only public statements on the matter came from head coach Jeff Boals during his weekly radio show on Feb. 10. Boals, and athletics director Julie Cromer, were scheduled to speak with university radio host Russ Eisenstein during another edition of ‘The Jeff Boals Show’ on Wednesday, Feb. 17.
Meanwhile, Ohio’s women’s basketball program is also out of action at the moment. The Bobcats (12-6, 10-5 MAC) were scheduled to host Northern Illinois (11-6, 9-3) on Wednesday, but that game was postponed “due to roster issues with the Ohio women’s basketball team related to COVID-19 and subsequent contact tracing,” Ohio said in a released statement.
The game will be rescheduled on a to-be-determined date but that information has noy yet been released. The Ohio women have a scheduled ‘off’ day on Saturday, but next week have two pivotal games with a home game against MAC-leading Bowling Green (15-4, 11-3) on Wednesday, Feb. 24, and road game at Buffalo (11-6, 8-4) on Saturday, Feb. 27.
The home game with NIU is the only postponement thus far for Ohio on the women’s side. OU is scheduled to travel to Akron (Wed., March 3) and host Miami (Sat., March 6) the following week.