The NCAA was busy on Wednesday during their Division I Council Meeting. One of the biggest decisions they made was to set the first contest date for both Men’s and Women’s basketball as November 25th, 2020. While no games can be played before that date, teams will be able to have plenty of practice time as the date of the first practice was set as October 14th. Teams will have 42 days to conduct a maximum 30 practices and all schools will have a dedicated dead day on Election Day, November 3rd where no activities can be allowed. During the 42 day preseason period players can work out up to 20 hours per week, for a maximum of four hours per day, and must have one day off per week.
The NCAA DI council also approved a transition period to allow players to prepare for the upcoming season based on the mental and physical challenges basketball players are facing as a result of the pandemic. The transition period will begin on September 21st and continue through October 13th. During this period teams may participate in strength and conditioning activities, sport-related meetings and skill instruction for up to 12 hours a week, with an eight-hour limit on skill instruction. Players must have two days off per week during the transition period.
This delay to November 25h from the original start date of November 10 is to hopefully allow for the playing of as many games as possible while athletes are sequestered in a pseudobubble where other students head home for the holidays before Thanksgiving and don’t return to campuses until mid-January.
“The new season start date near the Thanksgiving holiday provides the optimal opportunity to successfully launch the basketball season,” said NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt. “It is a grand compromise of sorts and a unified approach that focuses on the health and safety of student-athletes competing towards the 2021 Division I basketball championships.”
With the date changes there will be some significant schedule changes. First, no exhibition games or closed/secret scrimmages will be allowed this season. Teams will be forced to trim their originally planned schedules with the season cut by two weeks. In men’s basketball, 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. This is down from an original maximum of 28 regular season games.
On the women’s side, teams can schedule 23 regular-season games and participate in one multiple-team event that includes up to four games or schedule 25 regular-season games if a team does not compete in a multiple-team event.
All teams must play at least 13 games against fellow Division I teams to be considered for the NCAA Tournaments, and while there are no requirements, the NCAA strongly urges teams to play at least four non-conference games.
For what this means to Minnesota —assuming a 20 game regular season for the men in Big Ten play, the Gophers would have between four and five non conference games plus a multiple team event. Minnesota was originally slated to play in the Hall of Fame Tip-off Classic at the Mohegan Sun Casino and Arena in Connecticut. Minnesota was slated to play UCF in the first game with Marquette and Rhode Island as the other two teams. If this tournament continues to take place as is rumored, the Gophers would still have the potential to schedule up to an additional five non-conference games. Whether this will include the Big Ten/ACC Challenge or the scheduled game against Mississippi State at Williams Arena is yet to be announced.
On the women’s side, assuming a standard 18 game Big Ten regular season is played, the Gophers will have the ability to schedule between five and seven non-conference games depending on it’s plans for a multi-team event.
With the Big Ten’s announcement of the rapid COVID testing that will begin with fall athltes and will be extended into winter sports athletes in due time, it looks likely that a semi-normal basketball season will attempt to be played. Hopefully it will be successful.