Big Ten basketball: Iowa vs. Michigan State game postponed because of COVID-19 cases

IOWA CITY, Ia. — The Iowa men's basketball home game scheduled for Thursday against Michigan State was postponed because of COVID-19 cases within the Spartan program.

It is the first Hawkeye game this winter impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. There was no immediate word on when the game may be replayed.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo revealed Wednesday that two of his players had tested positive for COVID-19 four days ago, but said the team was still planning on flying to Iowa City that evening. The players for both teams were to be tested again Thursday morning before a final determination was made about the status of the game.

But a news release from Michigan State on Wednesday evening revealed that the Spartans received one more positive COVID-19 test that afternoon. It did not say whether that was a player or coach. Izzo himself had a bout with COVID-19 earlier in the season, and his son, Steven, is currently in isolation after a positive test.

 "I'm really disappointed, but it just goes to prove that this can affect anyone," Tom Izzo said in the university news release.  "I feel so comfortable that me, my son and my players did everything possible and followed every protocol as best we could.  I'm really, really impressed with the way they have conducted themselves. This virus does not discriminate and I can't emphasize enough how important it is to wear a mask, wash your hands and follow protocols."

Per Big Ten protocols, any student-athlete who tests positive for COVID-19 must sit out for 17 days.

The University of Iowa said in its news release the postponement was "mutually agreed upon out of an abundance of caution surrounding the health and safety of the participants." 

"The two institutions will work with the Big Ten Conference to identify rescheduling options," Iowa added in its release.

The Iowa Hawkeyes found out Wednesday that Thursday's home basketball game against Michigan State has been postponed because of COVID-19 cases within the Spartans' program.

Nebraska and Penn State are other Big Ten Conference men's basketball programs currently on a pause due to COVID-19 cases. The league built some off days into its schedule to accommodate games that might need to be made up. The goal is for each of the 14 teams to play 20 games.

However, the breaks in the schedules don't line up currently for Iowa and Michigan State, so the conference will need to get creative in order to make it work. The Big Ten has moved dates for other games involving other teams in order to reschedule. One factor will be whether the Spartans need to make up more than one game, if the COVID-19 pause lingers. Michigan State previously lost a non-conference matchup at Virginia due to the coronavirus.

Iowa, which is ranked fifth in the Associated Press poll and eighth in the coaches' poll, has an 11-2 record, with a 5-1 mark in league games.

Iowa's next scheduled game is at 1 p.m. Sunday at Northwestern.  The contest will air nationally on CBS. Originally slated for 8 p.m. Sunday, the change to 11 a.m. is a result of Sunday’s Indiana-Michigan State game postponement, which was slated to be broadcast on CBS.

The Hawkeyes had an outbreak of COVID-19 over the summer, but have not reported any issues with players or coaches during the season. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery has said all along that he expected disruptions in the team's schedule, and that his veteran group of players would be equipped to work around those.

McCaffery was asked Wednesday afternoon about information he was receiving regarding the COVID-19 situation on other teams and answered:

"We don't get a lot of information about other teams, unless we're getting ready to play them. So we were informed that there might be one or two guys out (for Michigan State. If there are, I hope they're doing well and getting better.

"But as it relates to, say, Penn State and Nebraska, I suspect Brad Floy, our trainer, may know more, but we're not playing those guys for awhile, so they're on pause and probably expect them to be back off pause when we get ready to play them."

Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.