USC forward Isaiah Mobley looks to pass the ball against Long Beach State’s Eddie Scott and Colin Slater on Dec. 12 at the Galen Center. The Trojans have postponed next week’s scheduled games against Arizona and Arizona State. (Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)
As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across college basketball, neither USC nor UCLA can expect to see the court in the foreseeable future.
The top-10 teams, both already on pause because of COVID-19 issues, announced concurrently Friday that confirmed cases within their respective programs would force both to postpone their two Pac-12 Conference games next week against Arizona and Arizona State.
USC and UCLA will work with the conference and the Arizona schools to reschedule the games. The postponements mark the latest setback in a season already beset with pandemic-related issues for both programs.
UCLA didn’t have a single confirmed positive COVID case last season but now finds itself amid a program-wide shutdown with three nonconference games canceled and three Pac-12 games in need of rescheduling.
The No. 5 Bruins haven’t played since Dec. 11, when they beat Marquette to move to 8-1. Four days later, UCLA coach Mick Cronin entered COVID protocols, prompting UCLA to cancel its game that night with Alabama State out of caution. Two days after that, UCLA’s marquee nonconference matchup with North Carolina was canceled as the program went on pause. The following game, against Cal Poly, was also canceled.
Two weeks later, those same issues are still wreaking havoc on the restart of UCLA’s season.
For No. 8 USC, the prolonged pause couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Trojans are off to a scorching 12-0 start and ranked inside of the top 10 for the first time in three decades. Confirmed positive cases within the program last Sunday forced USC to cancel its nonconference matchup with Oklahoma State slated for Tuesday.
Now, with a crucial test against a fellow top-10 team in Arizona postponed, the Trojans will have to wait 19 days between games, with its next game scheduled for Jan. 6 at California.
The wait is even longer for UCLA, which has seen six of its last seven scheduled games derailed by COVID-19. When the Bruins finally head to Stanford on Jan. 6, 26 days will have passed between games.
Like last year, both USC and UCLA will be forced to squeeze key conference matchups into their schedules later in the season. UCLA must also find room for its postponed Dec. 5 matchup with Washington, which was originally ruled a forfeit for the Huskies before the Pac-12 recently revised its forfeiture rules.
Mass reschedulings put a major strain on both schools’ schedules last season. UCLA endured several disruptions caused not only by other schools, but also once by a referee who tested positive. USC, meanwhile, finished its 2020-21 regular season with six games over two weeks as it tried to jam in rescheduled conference games.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.