Michigan State men's and women's basketball have COVID-19 issues; Thursday's games off

Around 1:20 p.m. Wednesday, Tom Izzo felt like Michigan State basketball’s trip to Iowa remained a go, even with two positive COVID-19 cases within his program.

“And thank God everybody else in the team has continued to test negative,” he said.

About six hours later, the game was postponed. A third case — the person was not identified — was discovered within his program.

“I’m really disappointed, but it just goes to prove that this can affect anyone,” Izzo said in a statement Wednesday night. “I feel so comfortable that me, my son and my players did everything possible and followed every protocol as best we could. I’m really, really impressed with the way they have conducted themselves.

Suzy Merchant and Tom Izzo's Michigan State basketball teams both had games scheduled for Thursday postponed Wednesday night due to COVID-19 issues within their programs.
Suzy Merchant and Tom Izzo's Michigan State basketball teams both had games scheduled for Thursday postponed Wednesday night due to COVID-19 issues within their programs.

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“This virus does not discriminate, and I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to wear a mask, wash your hands and follow protocols.”

The three cases among the Spartans puts their next scheduled game Sunday at home against Indiana in limbo. It also is uncertain when their visit to the No. 8-ranked Hawkeyes will be rescheduled.

In addition to the issues within the men’s program, MSU’s women’s team postponed its Wednesday trip to Illinois for a Thursday game, due to COVID issues within coach Suzy Merchant’s program. That game also will be rescheduled for a later date, still to be determined.

No decisions about whether any upcoming men’s or women’s games will be played have been announced, the school said in separate releases.

Izzo on Wednesday afternoon revealed sophomore walk-on guard Steven Izzo — his son — and freshman forward Mady Sissoko tested positive Sunday. The two are roommates and the first MSU men’s players to miss time because of COVID-19, dating back to the season's start on Nov. 25.

They will be in isolation for 10 days. Big Ten rules state that both players must be held out of team activities for 17 days, meaning the earliest they can return to practice will be Jan. 28, the day the Spartans play at Rutgers — if they are symptom-free and pass conference-mandated cardiac testing.

“That's why we test every day, and that's how it's worked. And it's worked pretty well for the most part,” Tom Izzo said early Wednesday. “Now, if we have a bunch of guys that get it and test positive, then we will be shut down.”

Tom Izzo was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Nov. 9 and dealt with a few complications during his recovery but returned in time for the Spartans’ opener Nov. 25 against Eastern Michigan. He said Oct. 14 his team “had a couple of cases” that “set us back a little bit” after strong workouts in July and August, but Izzo did not specify if that referred to players or coaches, or how many within the program dealt with the coronavirus.

[ Tom Izzo's COVID-19 bout might make MSU better in long run ]

“You're not only seeing a lot of people getting it, but you're seeing more second-time (cases), which was my worry of Christmas and New Year's and guys that had it maybe earlier in the summer,” Tom Izzo said. “We didn't have many that had it early, and then the second one comes 90-100 days later. And I guess just like Dr. (Anthony) Fauci said, it sounds like it's all pretty standard as far as what he said and what's going on.”

It is MSU’s second postponement this season. The Spartans’ Dec. 10 game at Virginia in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge was called off less than 24 hours before tipoff, and it remains unclear if it will be made up this season. MSU flew to Charlottesville, Virginia, on Dec. 9 before positive COVID cases in the Cavaliers’ program halted their team activities late that night. Virginia’s pause lasted 17 days.

[ Izzo: Continuing to play is 'a mental relief' for players ]

It also is the first COVID disruption within the MSU women’s program this season. Merchant’s team had its Dec. 31 game at Ohio State postponed due to issues within the Buckeyes’ program, ahead of a pause for OSU. A rescheduled date for that game has not yet been determined. OSU did not play for 24 days during its stoppage.

Contact Chris Solari: Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State men's and women's basketball experiencing COVID issues