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Juwan Howard, Michigan take it 'one day at a time' as schedule remains unresolved

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

A month ago, Michigan coach Juwan Howard was hopeful the program would have some scheduling news to share in the near future.

Fast forward to Monday and not much has changed.

With a little more than two weeks before the season is set to start, Michigan is still trying to piece together its schedule and fill the holes that have been created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Juwan Howard

“What the schedule will look like, honestly, I really don't know,” Howard said Monday. “When a schedule does come out, the key is: Can we do it in a safe manner where it protects everyone's health and safety? I'm speaking of the players, coaches, support staff and then, more importantly, your opponent.

“I'm not quite sure when the schedule will come out.”

Several leagues, including the Big 12, Pac-12, Horizon League, Summit League and SEC, have released their conference schedules. There’s hope the Big Ten will do the same this week, though it’s unclear whether it will play 20 league games like it has each of the past two seasons or bump that number up.

More: Five-star big man Moussa Diabate commits to Michigan basketball

The NCAA announced in September the season could begin on Nov. 25 and it reduced the maximum number of games from 31 to 27 for teams playing in multi-team events, or 25 for those that don’t. A minimum of four nonconference games was also recommended.

The pushed-back start date along with travel issues, differing virus testing protocols, different state restrictions as well as the cancellation and relocation of multi-team events have provided plenty of obstacles.

“Right now, I'll say this, COVID is winning,” said Howard, who pointed to the several cancellations that have occurred during the Big Ten football season.

“What we have to do is figure out how we can learn on the fly. It's fluid every day, but how can we keep our guys safe during the process and let's see what happens.”

More: Michigan State No. 13, Michigan No. 25 in preseason AP college basketball poll

Health and safety concerns have already caused the Wolverines to pull out of the Empire Classic, which was moved from New York’s Madison Square Garden to the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., and postpone their London matchup against Kentucky until December 2022.

To date, Michigan has officially announced only one game: a Dec. 9 home contest against N.C. State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Howard said Michigan has “some teams in place” for its schedule but no set dates. And while teams in other leagues have finalized their slates, Howard said that doesn’t make him “uncomfortable” with the season fast approaching.

“We just know that this is a new world right now in dealing with a very difficult time and you've just got to be patient during the process,” Howard said. “I say this to say that we also have to trust the process. I feel confident that we will have a schedule and we will have some opponents.

“I just hope that during this season we can keep all the players, along with our opponents, safe and healthy during this process because it's not going to be easy. Hopefully we don't have any postponed games, but you just never know. You've got to take it one day at a time."

jhawkins@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins