The NCAA Division I basketball season can start on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving, made official Wednesday by a vote of the Division I Council.
Now the fun begins.
Conference and nonconference schedules are puzzles in normal times. This obviously isn’t that.
Full practices can start on Oct. 14, the NCAA announced. No issues there. But this is an interesting decision on minimum games: Every team must play 13 for consideration for the NCAA Tournament, a 50% reduction from the norm. That’s meant to be a low bar to clear, with nobody sure of the COVID-19 landscape ahead or confident that full schedules can be completed.
While the NCAA is offering guidance “recommending” at least four nonconference games, nothing is cast in stone. Some conferences could opt for larger league schedules, asking members to limit nonconference games.
Start dates could vary, which is baked into this. The Ivy League, for instance, isn’t having anyone practicing or playing in the fall semester. Meanwhile, the Atlantic 10 and the Colonial Athletic Association were preparing for this kind of start date, which is why the basketball teams were allowed to live on campus at La Salle and Drexel, even though few other students are on campus.
In a non-pandemic year, the Division I hoop season would have started two weeks earlier. This time, there are no scrimmages or exhibition games allowed.
The goal of the later start was to intentionally start games without students on campuses, many already finished with their moved-up fall semesters. (No fans likely anyway.) The ultimate goal is to get to March Madness, to have an NCAA tournament.
Division I will allow four fewer games, with 24 regular-season men’s games, plus one “multi-team event that includes up to three games.” Teams can go to 25 games when they enter an event that includes only two games or skip a tournament. In women’s basketball, the standard is 23 games plus an event featuring up to four games, or 25 games when teams don’t enter one of those events.
Numerous early season tournaments are moving locations. Temple, for instance, was slated to go to Hawaii this season. Make that Orlando. It all makes sense for 2020.
In other business, the Division I Council voted to hold the Football Championship Subdivision tournament from April 18 to May 15, with 16 teams instead of 24. Also, Divison I athletes will not practice or compete on Election Day, starting this year.