Time is ticking on the remainder of the 2020-21 college basketball season, and the Kentucky Wesleyan College men’s team just wants to play.
The Panthers were scheduled to face Trevecca Nazarene on Saturday in Nashville and Lake Erie on Monday in Painesville, Ohio. Instead, positive COVID-19 tests within the Wesleyan program wiped both contests off the schedule.
Now, with a little over a week until the start of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference tournament, the rest of the regular season remains in question for KWC. The Panthers still have two games on the schedule — Thursday’s home matchup against Ohio Valley and Saturday’s visit to Tiffin — but if the coronavirus pandemic has proven anything over the past year, it’s that nothing is set in stone.
It’s unfortunate, too, because the Panthers were set up nicely to end the regular season.
KWC sits third in the conference standings with a 9-5 mark against league opponents despite being tied with Lake Erie for the least amount of conference games played so far. The Panthers have completed their two-game series against every other top-five team in the league.
Wesleyan fell twice to No. 11 Hillsdale, dropped a pair to No. 23 Findlay, won both affairs with Malone and split two games with Walsh.
So, with the bulk of their tougher matchups out of the way, the Panthers had a golden opportunity to close out the campaign against four of the conference’s sub-.500 teams. Against those squads — Lake Erie Ohio Valley, Tiffin and Trevecca — KWC had already gone 4-0 with an average 22-point margin of victory.
A win is never guaranteed, but four more victories were likely on the way for Wesleyan.
Then the coronavirus struck, yet again.
Canceling and postponing games has become the norm at all levels of play this year, from the professional ranks to high school. Cooper and his squad have been through their fair share of schedule adjustments, but the timing of their latest adversity is far less than ideal.
Following a solid week of practice, the Panthers liked their chances down the stretch. Not only would four more games help provide some breathing room in the G-MAC point-rating system, but it would also allow KWC to work out any last-minute kinks before the postseason begins.
Instead, at least two of those games are cancelled for now — Cooper said he’s working to reschedule one game for Sunday, but nothing is decided yet. And again, contests later in the week remain on the slate, but nothing is a given moving forward.
Still, the Panthers are staying ready, much like they’ve done all season.
From schedule changes to injuries, Wesleyan has done a solid job staying focused this year, and it’s obvious that the Panthers had great hopes for the postseason. Of course, those goals are still attainable, but COVID-19 seems to throw a wrench into just about everything these days.
The latest setback is unfortunate, but it’s not something that should hold Wesleyan back. If everything goes according to plan, another two or three regular-season victories should be on the way, sending the Panthers into the conference tournament with some much-needed momentum.
There’s no doubt that Wesleyan will handle its business, but some things are simply uncontrollable.
Time is ticking on the regular season, and the Panthers just want to play.