UNC Remains on Track to Play UCLA in Las Vegas

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina has not made any changes to its travel plans for this weekend’s CBS Sports Classic in Las Vegas following UCLA’s postponement of its game against Alabama State on Wednesday night due to COVID-19 protocols.

“As of right now, we’re playing UCLA,” UNC senior associate athletic director Steve Kirschner told reporters on Thursday morning. “We’re going to practice today after this to get ready to play UCLA and go to Las Vegas with every intention of playing UCLA.”

On Wednesday afternoon, UCLA shared that head coach Mick Cronin would miss that evening’s home game against Alabama State due to COVID-19 protocols and that associate head coach Darren Savino would fill Cronin’s void on the sideline. The school then announced an hour before tip-off that the game would not be played as scheduled due to COVID-19 protocols. The Los Angeles Times reported prior to that announcement that all non-injured Bruins would be available to play.

UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond tweeted out the following message just before noon eastern time on Thursday: “Fans – I know canceling last night’s game was very disappointing for all and a major inconvenience for many, let alone on short notice; however, the difficult decision was the right thing to do for the safety of everyone – players, students, fans and employees. We do not have an update yet on this Saturday’s game against UNC in Las Vegas. We’ll let everyone know as soon as possible.”

UNC is scheduled to fly to Las Vegas on Thursday afternoon. Clint Gwaltney, a senior associate athletic director who handles the Carolina basketball program’s scheduling, was in touch with UCLA officials on Wednesday night and is continuing those communications on Thursday, according to Kirschner.

Scheduling disruptions due to COVID-19 are nothing new for the Tar Heels. The coronavirus prompted cancellations in four ACC games for UNC during the 2020-21 season, three of which were scheduled at the Smith Center. Five non-conference games were canceled before the season tipped off die to the NCAA’s decision to limit schedules to 27 games.

The CBS Sports Classic changed its matchups the week before last season’s event in an effort to more closely align COVID-19 testing protocols between the competing programs and their respective conferences. UNC was originally scheduled to play Ohio State in Cleveland before defeating Kentucky, 75-63, on Dec. 19.

“We've been through this last year,” UNC head coach Hubert Davis said. “We know that in situations like this things can change. I was just reminded this morning that we had two games last year - two that I can remember - we had already gone through the scouting report and didn't have a chance to play Clemson and then we had the Miami game at home that was canceled right before the game.

“Those are things that we cannot control. What we can control is how we prepare, how we practice and how we play. And so I always talk to the guys about let's focus our attention to things that we can control. And that's taking care of ourselves here, being the best team that we can be in and when we leave the court making smart choices from a health standpoint. But those are things that we talk to the team about consistently every day."

UNC is 5-2 all-time in the CBS Sports Classic and 2-0 against UCLA in the event. The Bruins are 8-1 and have won three straight games since losing to No. 5 Gonzaga on Nov. 23.