On the same day that Big Ten football announced its return, college basketball fans received some good news as well. The NCAA’s Division I Council approved the start date of November 25 for the 2020-2021 season.
For many years the college basketball season traditionally began on Thanksgiving week and it took a global pandemic to return the game to its scheduling roots.
Here are other key elements of the season that was approved on Wednesday:
• Teams can increase on court weekly workouts from four hours to eight hours beginning on September 21.
• Practice for the season officially begins on October 14.
• The maximum regular season games allowed will be 27, which is four less than last season. However, it comes with this stipulation from the NCAA:
“teams can schedule 24 regular-season games and participate in one multiple-team event that includes up to three games; 25 regular-season games and participate in one multiple-team event that includes up to two games; or 25 regular-season games if a team does not participate in a multiple-team event.”
It seems based on NCAA’s approved format for college basketball regular season games leagues as large as the Big Ten will be unable to play a conference only schedule. It’s a 25 game limit without playing a MTE. A 26 game conference only schedule had been discussed in Big Ten.— Aaron Breitman (@aaron_breitman) September 17, 2020
• The minimum games necessary to be eligible for the NCAA Tournament will be 13.
• There will be no preseason scrimmages or exhibitions allowed.
• A recommendation for a minimum of four non-conference games to be scheduled was made.
• The NCAA Tournament will remain in March.
• This plan is for both men’s and women’s basketball.
While this is great news and puts the sport one step closer to playing this winter, there is still plenty of work to be done. Conferences now have to develop their own plans as to how they will schedule, determine medical protocols, and develop contingency plans if teams have to quarantine or are unable to play because of Covid-19 issues. Also determining if they will utilize a bubble type environment or will they hold traditional home and road games is an important next step.
Other questions to ponder is whether it’s realistic for smaller conferences to have enough resources to be able to institute enough medical protocols for it to have a full season? Or are they able to travel great distances to play high major programs, which they rely on for significant paydays with these buy games? Will major conferences like the Big Ten opt for a league only schedule to keep protocols among its members consistent?
As far as Rutgers men’s basketball is concerned, Jon Rothstein reported earlier this week that the NBA bubble setup in Orlando is planning on hosting eight high profile non-conference events. The plan includes the Jimmy V Classic, which Rutgers is scheduled to take on potential top 5 Baylor. However, that event has not confirmed the report. No word yet either on the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Gavitt Games or other potential non-conference games for Rutgers.
The good news is the NCAA is being proactive and has developed a sound framework for the sport. There are many questions to be answered, but Wednesday marked an important step forward towards a college basketball season taking place.