The NCAA Division I Council announced yesterday that the men's and women's college basketball seasons can start as early as Nov. 25. No scrimmages or exhibition games will be held before that date. It is up to each conference to decide when to start playing, but that is the earliest date they will be allowed to begin their seasons. They can also opt out if they want to.
The NCAA Tournament, also known as March Madness, will operate as usual. Sixty-eight teams will face off in a single-elimination bracket across 14 sites in March and April. Of course, this all depends on how well the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is contained across the NCAA.
"The new season start date near the Thanksgiving holiday provides the optimal opportunity to successfully launch the basketball season," said Dan Gavitt, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball. "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."
Gavitt said in a webinar last week with athletic directors that they picked Nov. 25 because many universities would be ending their fall semesters by then, or at least in-person classes, according to ESPN.
"By Thanksgiving week, the date of Nov. 25, 76 (percent) of all Division I schools will have either finished their fall semester completely or released the general student body for in-person instruction," Gavitt said.
The Council also reduced the maximum and minimum amount of games that each team can play. The least amount of games they can play to still be considered for the Tournament selection is 13, while the most they can play is 25 games, plus one multiple-team event.
Women's basketball teams can play 23 games with a multiple-team event or 25 games without one. The men's and women's basketball committees each requested a minimum of four non-conference games.
Full practices can begin Oct. 14, with a maximum of 30 practices allowed before the start of the season. "During this time, players can work out up to 20 hours per week, four hours per day and must have one day off per week. This model is generally consistent with the normal preseason practice period but permits additional flexibility for all teams to begin full practice on Oct. 14, regardless of when their first scheduled game occurs," according to the NCAA.
The season was originally supposed to start on Nov. 10 with the men's Champions Classic tournament between Duke, Michigan State, Kansas and Kentucky. It is not yet known if this tournament or any other non-conference tournaments will be held early in the season, or if they will occur at all.
The Council is still considering a bubble environment for these tournaments, similar to what the NBA is currently using. This means that all of the participating teams would travel to one controlled environment to play every game in order to reduce outbreak risk.
The Council also extended the recruiting dead period, meaning recruits will still not be allowed to visit any campuses. The dead period has been in place since March due to concerns with the virus.
"While the Council acknowledged and appreciates the growing desire to resume in-person recruiting by select coaches' associations, Council members ultimately concluded the primary concern right now must be protecting the current student-athletes on our campuses," said M. Grace Calhoun, Council chair and University of Pennsylvania Athletics Director. "We encourage our coaches to interact with prospective student-athletes virtually in this time period."
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