Sun, 17 Jan 2021

No. 2 Baylor makes surprise Vegas trip to open season

Field Level Media
28 Nov 2020, 15:19 GMT+10

Add flexibility to the defining traits of the No. 2 Baylor basketball team. Same for Washington.

Impacted by COVID-19, each team lost its scheduled opening-week games due to outbreaks of the coronavirus. That includes Bears head coach Scott Drew, who tested positive last week before the team shoved off for a scheduled multi-team event (MTE) that included a potential spicy Thanksgiving night matchup with No. 3 Villanova in the 2K Empire Classic.

Baylor had to remove itself from the event this week but made an unexpected Thanksgiving night flight to Las Vegas, where it plans to kick off the season on Saturday against Louisiana, then square off with Washington on Sunday. The Huskies had their own season-opening plans scrapped and agreed to join Baylor in the Vegas showcase.

The two teams met last season in Washington's opener, a 67-64 win for the Huskies.

Drew is in self isolation. The Baylor program said Drew is the only positive test within the team in 12 weeks of testing.

"We're excited to officially get the season started against some great competition in Baylor," Washington head coach Mike Hopkins said in a statement. "When our MTE was canceled or looking like it could be canceled, we were already working to see what our plan B could be because we wanted to get our guys the opportunity to play. Our staff worked non-stop exploring all options and this started to come together which was really exciting for us.

"We obviously want to make sure we're taking the right safety precautions and not just jumping into a game for the sake of it and this was the right choice. Having the opportunity to play one of the best teams in the country on our first weekend is going to be a great experience for our guys. As a team, you always want to play the best teams that you can and this is going to be a good test for us. The way this year is going, you just have to be ready for anything and that's what we've been telling our guys from day one. This is a great opportunity and we're going to be ready for it."

Baylor is still scheduled to play No. 8 Illinois on Wednesday.

Washington lost a three-day multi-team event it was scheduled to host into the current weekend and was in line to be delayed until Dec. 3 against Utah. The Huskies get the Sunday game with Baylor but the remainder of their schedule in Vegas was still up in the air Friday.

Baylor will play Louisiana under the direction of assistant coach Jerome Tang in Vegas.

"They're a very good team and they're very well coached," Tang said Friday. "Bob Marlin has been doing this a long time and has been successful at the highest level. His team will be well prepared and they play together. They suffered a lot of injuries last year, but even with that they were in every ballgame."

Louisiana's opener with Loyola (La.) was canceled. The Ragin' Cajuns announced Friday morning they would face Baylor on Saturday night and an undetermined opponent on Sunday.

Three of the five players who averaged double-figure scoring for Louisiana are back: guard Cedric Russell (14.4 points per game), forward Kobe Julien (12.8 ppg) and guard Mylik Wilson (11.5 ppg).

Louisiana has four in-state games scheduled after the Vegas surprise -- at New Orleans and then at home against LSU Alexandria, Louisiana Tech and New Orleans in a rematch.

--Field Level Media

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