No. 13 Tennessee hopes to finally open season vs. Colorado

NCAA Basketball

The Tennessee Volunteers hope the sixth time is the charm to kick off their season.

No. 13 Tennessee has yet to play a game this season and, after another cancellation, is scheduled to host the Colorado Buffaloes (2-0) on Tuesday night in Knoxville.

Colorado is the fourth team to be slated as the opener for the Volunteers, who have had five overall games canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 issues with them or their opponents.

The Buffaloes (2-0) have been dealing with the same issues since playing in the Little Apple Classic on Nov. 24 and 27 in Manhattan, Kan. Colorado had to pause its activities and postpone its Pac-12 opener against Arizona State, then resumed and was scheduled to host Washington State on Saturday. Coronavirus issues with the Cougars forced a postponement Friday night.

The Volunteers’ COVID-19 issues started just before the season was to begin when multiple positive tests, including one by coach Rick Barnes, forced the program to pause activities Nov. 23. Barnes was in quarantine until Dec. 1 and said he had mild symptoms but felt well.

Tennessee then canceled its game against No. 1 Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic on Wednesday and Friday’s game against Notre Dame. The Volunteers and the Buffaloes quickly adjusted and added Tuesday’s game.

“You knew it would become a scramble, and teams would be picking up games last minute,” Tennessee associate head coach Mike Schwartz said this week. “You wouldn’t know who you would be playing on Monday and on Wednesday you could be playing that team. So we kind of prepared for this to be like this, but you don’t know until it’s in front of you.”

Colorado’s wins came against South Dakota and Kansas State without D’Shawn Schwartz, who tested positive for the virus before the game against the Coyotes. Contact tracing within the program led to the game against the Sun Devils to be postponed because the Buffaloes were under the minimum of available scholarship players.

Originally, Colorado was slated to play Colorado State on Tuesday but the Rams shut down basketball activities Nov. 20 due to COVID-19 concerns. The Buffaloes then scheduled a game with Division II Colorado School of Mines but pivoted when the matchup against Tennessee was set.

The game was in the works for a few days but if Washington State was able to play Sunday, Colorado would not have traveled to play the Volunteers.

Schwartz should be available to play against the Volunteers, coach Tad Boyle said, though the team has yet to play at full strength.

“We were not at full strength against South Dakota. We weren’t at full strength against K-State. And we will not be at full strength against Tennessee,” Boyle said. “But we’re going to go hook it up and see what happens. In (Schwartz’s) workout (Saturday), he was probably in better shape than we thought he would be and he shot the ball well.

“One thing about D’Shawn, he’s a senior, he’s a veteran. You expect him to pick up where he left off, but we’ll see how the next few days unfolds, where he’s at.”

–Field Level Media

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