Oakland men's basketball did the nearly impossible — played its entire schedule

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

In this COVID-19 era of college basketball, the Oakland men's basketball team is Big Foot, riding a unicorn, to go see the Loch Ness Monster.

Remarkably, the Golden Grizzlies played their full 27-game regular-season schedule, and played a game on every date it had scheduled at the start of the season.

Oakland only had one schedule change, when Northern Kentucky called off its December series in Rochester because of COVID-19 issues. Because IUPUI had to cancel on Detroit Mercy the same weekend, the Horizon League had Oakland and Detroit Mercy meet up.

Jalen Moore was the last Oakland player to have COVID-19.

"We're doing some research," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said Sunday night. "We think we're the only team in the country that played all 27 games on the day we were supposed to."

This we know for certain: At 27 games, Oakland played the maximum number of games for the 2020-21 schedule. As of Sunday, three teams, Eastern Illinois, North Dakota and Tennessee Tech, had played 25, next-closest to Oakland. A group of teams also had played 24, including Colorado, Toledo, Belmont, Washington State, Cal, Gardner Webb, Longwood and another Horizon League member, Green Bay.

Every other Division I men's team in Michigan had to pause its program to deal with internal COVID-19 issues. Michigan and Michigan State had shutdowns of more than two weeks; Eastern Michigan went 25 days without playing before returning Saturday; Central Michigan has had its last four games postponed; Detroit Mercy missed consecutive weeks in January, one for "mental health" reasons, another for COVID-19; and Western Michigan had to pause early in the season, after playing its first game, and has had multiple shorter shutdowns throughout the season.

Oakland, of course, had a two-week shutdown that ended just before the start of the season, because of a massive COVID-19 outbreak within the men's and women's program. Both coaches, Kampe and women's coach Jeff Tungate, caught it, and seven Oakland men's players had it. Between the two programs, 20 people tested positive.

Kampe joked at the time that it was a good thing for the Golden Grizzlies, because they'd be good for 90 days — the believed length of immunity for people who've had COVID-19. Now, he's not joking.

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"I really do believe that," Kampe said. "The negative of that is that 90 days are now gone. If we get it in the next 10 days, then we're done."

The Golden Grizzlies (10-17, 10-10 Horizon League) are the No. 3 seed in the Horizon League tournament, and open play Tuesday, March 2, at home against the second-highest seed remaining from the first four games, which are set for this Thursday.

Since the outbreak, Oakland hasn't had any positive tests among players. Starting point guard Jalen Moore was the last player to test positive, the day after Kampe tested positive the first week of November. The program did have two false positives in-season. Players are tested six times a week.

The Oakland women's team (12-11, 12-8) played every game but one, with a nonconference game against Chicago State canceled because of COVID-19 issues at Chicago State.


Twitter: @tonypaul1984