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COVID-19 pauses hurt college basketball teams on the court

Teams returning from practice and competition pauses due to COVID aren’t meeting expectations.

Louisville Cardinals center Dre Davis shoots between Duke Blue Devils forward Matthew Hurt and guard Jeremy Roach during a NCAA basketball game at the KFC Yum! Center. Courier Journal-USA TODAY Sports

With college basketball teams on pause all the time, more and more teams are taking extended breaks before returning to the floor. But it’s hurting their competitiveness once they do. And for those that think some rest for a team would be helpful in the middle of a grinding season, the stats just don’t bear that out.

The longer the break lasts, the more the rust hurts on the court when they come return to action.

You can take a deeper look at the data here, including finding individual games and how they turned out after a team took a two-week-or-greater pause. But there are tons of examples of games where the layoff was clearly a factor.

UC Davis missed a whopping 55 days between Division I games between Idaho State (November 28th) and UC San Diego (January 22nd), but lost by 20 against a team ranked 43 below them in the rankings. It was also the longest pause any college basketball team has taken this season.

Villanova faced a Seton Hall team at home they’d normally handle easily, but barely held on for a two-point victory despite being ranked fourth and the Pirates 33rd. There are plenty of examples like this throughout the season, but it shows this applies to both the top and bottom of the college basketball table, and teams with varying degrees of stoppage as well.

So what does this mean for bettors? Keep an eye peeled for bad lines regarding teams that have taken a break that’s lasted more than a bit. While there are less teams on pause now than previously, our last count had 10 teams off their schedule and paused presently. And while the study above accounts for only 14 days or longer, even shorter pauses and time without practice can give an edge to bettors.

So the old question about “rest vs. rust?” In the case of the 2020-21 COVID-laden college basketball season, it’s clearly about rust for teams recovering from being touched by the coronavirus.