COVID is Having Huge Impact on the NMSU Men’s Basketball Season
When NMSU relocated to Phoenix prior to the start of the 2020-21 college basketball season, head coach Chris Jans hoped his team would be able to resume a sense of normalcy during the COVID pandemic. Over the last six weeks, it has been anything but normal for the Aggies.
The team has played just three games in nonconference play, but only once against a Division 1 opponent. Last night, NMSU sent out word that the program has paused all activities after a positive COVID test within the NMSU men's basketball team. Instead of opening their conference season on the road against Dixie State, the Aggies will be quarantined in their hotel rooms for the second time this season.
"While it's very frustrating to pause team activities, our commitment to the health and safety of our student-athletes and staff members is our top priority," coach Jans said in the team release last night. "We are following all of the COVID-19 protocols put in place by NM State and the NCAA in order to maintain a safe environment while we prepare to return to practice and competition."
The three-time defending league champions were in California last week hoping to play a few games before the start of conference play. Instead, their December 31st contest against Santa Clara was canceled because of a positive test result within the Broncos program. NMSU scrambled and set up a two-game series with UC Riverside on January 2nd and 3rd. However, that series was also canceled last minute because NMSU's previous opponent (Cal State Northridge) had a positive COVID test after their game with the Aggies and the Matadors had put their program on pause. UC Riverside also had a positive test in mid-December and their team was just coming off of a quarantine period. The university's medical personnel did not want to risk any potential COVID spread if a NMSU player contracted the virus. It turns out UC Riverside made the right decision.
When the Aggies do return to the floor in WAC competition, they will take with them a league record 31-game regular season conference winning streak. NMSU has won a total of 34 straight conference games counting tournament contests. However, this season will be a true test of the mental grind that it has had on Coach Jans and his team.
When asked how he would describe his season so far at his weekly virtual press conference, Jans likened it to a crazy movie. "I don't know if there's a genre of this like a horror comedy film. I told the guys that if you are on top of that, you would keep a journal. This would be a great opportunity to keep a journal because someday you know you want to share with your grandkids, kids, or whomever you know about the pandemic and then then what we're going through on top of it all, like so."
Hopefully for Coach Jans and his Aggies men's basketball program, 2021 will get better soon.