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One of the biggest things Geno Auriemma is concerned about ahead of No. 3 UConn’s delayed season opener on Saturday isn’t actually contracting COVID-19.
Instead, Auriemma is bothered by how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted his players — and college athletes everywhere — psychologically.
“I think the mental part is what’s the worst part about it right now,” Auriemma said Thursday, via ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel. “I don’t know where anybody is at mentally. Not just our team, I mean any team. I can’t imagine that any coaches are sitting out there saying, ‘My team’s in a great place mentally.’”
Geno: ‘These kids are all suffering from COVID fever’
Auriemma and the Huskies have had a tough go at getting their season off the ground.
The program had to suspend all team activities on Nov. 23, just days ahead of their original season-opener, due to a coronavirus outbreak within the program. They started practicing again 10 days later, but then lost another matchup with Butler due to an outbreak in that program.
UConn will finally get started on Saturday when it hosts UMass Lowell — something Auriemma hopes will help his team’s mentality significantly.
"The ability to focus and concentrate on the task at hand has been very, very, very difficult,” Auriemma said, via ESPN. “Maybe all the interruptions, maybe all the uncertainty, maybe being cooped up for all these weeks and months. They talk about cabin fever that people have. I gotta believe that college basketball, college sports — these kids are all suffering from COVID fever. They don't actually have the virus, but they've got all the things that the virus does to people. Maybe we just need a game."
UConn’s issue isn’t unique. More than 50 games on the men’s side have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus, and countless programs have had positive tests and had to shut down. Both Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Pittsburgh coach Jeff Capel said that they feel uneasy playing during massive coronavirus spikes across the country, and the Blue Devils even canceled the remainder of their nonconference schedule.
While he’s advocated for a delayed start to the season in the past, and understands why people are concerned, the year kicked off officially on Nov. 25 — which left Auriemma with essentially one option: Play.
“There was a lot of energy and excitement [ahead of the season]. As we moved along and we started to see games postponed, people became a little more anxious,” he said, via ESPN. “It’s been pretty much all-consuming, this worry about, ‘What’s next?’
“There hasn’t been a lot of things to take your mind off this. That’s why it’s so important that we do play Saturday. And beyond that, there will be the worry about the next one.”
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