Another day, another disruption for UCLA’s constantly evolving basketball schedule.
The Bruins learned Wednesday they would play No. 20 Ohio State instead of Kentucky on Saturday in the CBS Sports Classic at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland because of an issue with the teams’ COVID-19 testing protocols.
The protocols used by UCLA and the Pac-12 Conference more closely align with those used by Ohio State and the Big Ten Conference, leading to the switch in opponents. Kentucky will now play North Carolina in the first game of the doubleheader, followed by UCLA versus Ohio State in a game nationally televised by CBS and scheduled to start at 1:15 p.m. PST.
“We really wanted to play them,” Bruins coach Mick Cronin said of the Wildcats, “but guys are excited to play against a really good team, so we’re fortunate that the other teams agreed to make the adjustments. We’re appreciative that we’re going to get a chance to play Saturday, knock on wood.”
The switch in opponents comes only one day after UCLA’s attempt to play Long Beach State was postponed for a second time this season because of a positive test for the coronavirus involving the Beach. Cronin said it was possible the game could be made up during one of the two weeks the Bruins were scheduled to play only one Pac-12 game, assuming they didn’t need to use that open slot to make up a conference game.
Going from playing Kentucky to Ohio State will require a radical shift in approach given the Buckeyes’ tendencies under coach Chris Holtmann. Cronin equated Ohio State, which was undefeated before playing Purdue on Thursday, to San Diego State, which manhandled the Bruins in their season opener.
“It’s going to be extremely hard to score on them in the half court,” Cronin said of the Buckeyes. “They’re as committed to scouting report and team defense as anybody you’ll play against.”
UCLA is scheduled to take a charter flight and stay at a hotel across the street from the arena in an attempt to minimize potential contact with the public on its first trip outside Southern California this season. Cronin said players were wearing tracking devices for contact tracing purposes that notified them whenever they came within six feet of each other for more than 15 minutes of cumulative time over a 24-hour period.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.