Georgia Tech learned of canceled UAB game at team hotel

Georgia Tech forward Moses Wright (5) looks to pass the ball against Florida A&M during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Atlanta, Friday, Dec. 18, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Georgia Tech forward Moses Wright (5) looks to pass the ball against Florida A&M during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Atlanta, Friday, Dec. 18, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

The tide of postponements and cancellations that has swept across basketball finally caught up with Georgia Tech on Tuesday night at their team hotel in Birmingham, Ala., as the Yellow Jackets prepared to play Alabama-Birmingham. The Jackets had checked in, eaten dinner and were about to start a video session when they received word that the Blazers were canceling their Wednesday night game for COVID-related reasons. The game will not be made up.

After playing seven games as scheduled, it was Tech’s first game that has been disrupted by COVID-19.

“So we told the guys, ‘Let’s go pack our stuff up, and we’ll head on home,’ ” Pastner told the AJC.

Positive tests and contact tracing have caused dozens of games to be canceled or postponed across Division I. No fewer than 20 games involving ACC teams scheduled through Tuesday had been postponed or canceled, with 86 played. Wake Forest has played two games and isn’t scheduled to play again until its Jan. 3 game at Tech.

Pastner said that players were upset upon hearing the news of the cancellation. The Jackets’ play has been improving of late, including a 97-69 win over Delaware State on Sunday. With a record of 7-1, UAB would have been a good test before Tech ventured into ACC play.

“They wanted to play, they were ready to play,” Pastner said. “But, 2020. It’s not UAB’s fault. They wanted to play, too. It’s just COVID.”

On the bus ride home from Birmingham on Tuesday night, Pastner reached out to a handful of colleagues in hopes of scheduling another game for Wednesday night, to no avail.

“I was calling some teams, but a lot of teams had already sent their guys home,” he said.

An additional hurdle was that any opponent would have had to meet the ACC’s COVID-19 protocol, which includes three tests in the week before the competition. As of Wednesday, Pastner hadn’t given up on finding an opponent for Dec. 27, but estimated the chances of success at less than 5%.

Barring more games being canceled or postponed, Tech has one open window to add another game once ACC play begins. The Jackets have no games between Jan. 30 and Feb. 6, a Saturday-Saturday stretch.

“I was thinking we could even do another ACC game and count it as non-conference,” Pastner said.

With no UAB game, Pastner’s plan was to practice the team Wednesday and release players to go home and reconvene Dec. 26. Players and staff will be tested that day and can begin practice again Dec. 27. Pastner plans for the team to have double-practice days Dec. 27-29 up until the game with the Tar Heels on Dec. 30.

Since the Jackets began the season with losses to Georgia State and Mercer, Pastner has been putting the team through a heavy practice schedule because he had practiced through much of the preseason on a non-contact basis out of a concern that a positive COVID test would sideline the entire team for two weeks through contact tracing. The ACC’s adoption of proximity-measuring technology gave Pastner the impetus to change course and reinstate contact practices.

“We’re not even in November yet in terms of where we’d be in a normal contact practice year,” he said.

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