The 2020-21 college basketball season now has a start date, and more assurance for a postseason finish next March.
The NCAA Division I Council announced Wednesday that men’s and women’s hoops teams can open their seasons Nov. 25, about two weeks later than originally planned.
The squads will be allowed to begin preseason practice Oct. 14. They’ll all be aiming for a spot in the March Madness tournaments, which are set to take place as scheduled in 2021.
It’s an “aspirational” timeline amid the coronavirus pandemic, said Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president for basketball.
The 32 conferences still have plenty of details to sort out, too. They could place limitations on their teams’ nonconference games, or set up a revised structure for league-only action (such as regionalized scheduling or bubble-like neutral sites).
And the NCAA still intends to establish sportwide COVID-19 testing measures for game days. Gavitt said testing availability is the central issue in the return-to-play process. A plan for game cancelations and postponements is needed, as well.
But Gavitt and other top decision makers have cautioned those involved with the sport that equity may not be achieved with an altered format this season.
The primary goal is to avoid the fate of 2020, when the NCAA canceled its basketball postseason due to the coronavirus.
“This is kind of a grand compromise,” Gavitt said Wednesday during a video interview with NCAA correspondent Andy Katz. “It does not take care of every institution or conference’s desire. But it was never meant to. It was meant to be a unified approach that takes care of the game overall in a safe and responsible way.”
A few highlights from the NCAA’s announcement:
» Gavitt said about 75% of Division I schools, due to revised academic calendars, will no longer have the general student body on campus by Nov. 25. That creates a “more controlled” environment for basketball teams to meet health and safety guidelines, Gavitt said.
» Teams get 30 practices during the preseason, which starts Oct. 14. But beginning Monday, they will be allowed up to 12 hours per week — instead of eight — for workouts and strength training.
» There will be no closed-door scrimmages or exhibition games during the preseason.
» Teams are allowed to play a maximum of 27 regular-season games — instead of 31. They will have to play at least 13 games against Division I opponents to be considered eligible for the NCAA tournament.
» The Division I Council is recommending a minimum of four nonconference games per team. But that is not a mandate, Gavitt said.
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