It’s official: Nov. 25 start for college basketball

The Kent State women’ celebrate their first-round win over Buffalo in the MAC Tournament. That was March 11, the last
game the team played before the COVID-19 pandemic ended the season. (KentWired photo by John Conley.)

College basketball games can start on Wednesday, Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The NCAA Division I Council Wednesday approved the date for men’s and women’s basketball.

Games aren’t required to start then; it’s just the earliest teams can play.

Practice will start on Oct. 14, with 30 practices allowed before the season. Teams can up to 12 hours a week of strength and conditioning, team meetings, and team and individual drills between Sept. 21 and Oct. 13.

Women’s teams can schedule 23 regular-season games, plus one multiple-team event of up to four games. Without the multi-team even, they can schedule 25 games without a multiple-team event. Last season teams could play 27 games. Kent State played 29. Men’s team can play one more game.

“Teams tend to play an average of two games a week, so the fact we’re shortening the season necessitated the reduction in games so we’re trying to jam more in a shortened season,” said M. Grace Calhoun, Division I council chair and Penn athletic director.

The council recommended teams play at least four non-conference games.

Teams have to play a minimum of 13 games, seven fewer than previous years. Some schools have discussed playing a very abbreviated schedule to limit exposure to COVID-19 and for financial reasons.

Teams won’t be allowed to have preseason exhibition games or scrimmages. Kent State had two scrimmages against Division I opponents last season. In 2018, they had an exhibition against a Division II team and a scrimmage.

The later start is designed to limit athletes exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball committees had recommenced a Nov. 21 start. But the council decided on Nov. 25, when almost three-quarters of schools will finished on-campus classes.

Kent State is one of them. Classes and exams will be completely online after Thanksgiving. With classes online, student athletes can study from anywhere.

With many fewer students in town, athletes would be less likely to interact with others who might be infected.

The start date is three weeks later than the Kent State women’s team first game last season.

“The new season start date near the Thanksgiving holiday provides the optimal opportunity to successfully launch the season,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of basketball, as quoted by ESPN. “It is a grand compromise of sorts that focuses on the health and safety of student-athletes.”

National media outlets have consistently reported that more multi-team events in an NBA-like “bubble” format are likely. In those, multiple teams — perhaps as many as 20 — could play at a single site with a controlled environment and heavy COVID testing.

ESPN has said it could host four such events at its Orlando site, where the NBA has played.

The later start leaves about five weeks for non-conference games. 

Kent State likely will announce its non-conference schedules in the next few weeks. I’m sure KSU coaches already have had discussions with prospective opponents and tournaments.

MAC play for KSU’s women will start on Wednesday, Dec. 30, at Toledo. (Link to Kent women’s MAC schedule.) The Kent State men will open at Eastern Michigan on Saturday, Jan. 2. (KSU hasn’t posted its men’s MAC schedule, but the full MAC men’s schedule is here.)

The NCAA tournament is still set for 68 teams and 14 sites in March and April, although there has been unofficial discussion of consolidating the sites into “bubbles.”

No off-campus recruiting for rest of 2020

The D1 Council also extended the recruiting “dead period” through Jan. 1. There has been a dead period in place since March, with no official campus visits, no home visits by coaches, nor coaches’ going to AAU games or team practices during that time.

This extension that some coaches and high school players won’t be able to have face-to-face contact with coaches before students can formally commit to a school in the Nov. 11-18 early signing period. Nor will some coaches have ever seen some players in live competition.

Telephone and online contact is allowed. And many coaches saw players in AAU games when they were younger. Recruits also made unofficial visits in pre-COVID times.

“While the Council acknowledged and appreciates the growing desire to resume in-person recruiting,” Calhoun said. “council members ultimately concluded the primary concern right now must be protecting the current student-athletes on our campuses,”

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