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NCAA approves start date of Nov. 25, sets, parameters for college basketball season

Hartford Courant — Dom Amore Hartford Courant

Sept. 16--The NCAA’s Division I Council on Wednesday approved a plan to begin the college basketball season, for men and women, on Nov. 25, with practices to start Oct. 14.

The vote doesn’t necessarily mean the season will begin on that date, but it’s an important first step taken in setting the parameters of the season. Now it’s up to conferences, such as the Big East, to determine what their schedules will look like. Thenschools like UConn can begin scheduling, incorporating nonconference games and multiteam events. Teams will be allowed to play a maximum of 27 games.

The decision was first reported by CBSSports.com’s Jon Rothstein.

“We are very excited to have a target to shoot for,” UConn men’s coach Dan Hurley said. “The uncertainty and speculation is over for us. To be able to put together a schedule soon is the next step with both the Big East and whatever nonconference games can be played safely. There is definitely a feeling of hope that comes with today’s announcement.”

Without the COVID-19 pandemic, the season would have started on Nov. 10. That was no longer an option, but the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball committees want to take advantage of the two-month window between Thanksgiving weekend and the start of the second semester, when most campuses will be closed and students home for online classes, to play games at campus sites. It would be easier to sequester teams in their individual bubbles during that window.

However, the committees had submitted a plan to start the season Nov. 21, which would have allowed several multiteam events, including the Legends Classic that involved the UConn men, to be played on time. That doubleheader, which was to include Vanderbilt, Notre Dame and Southern Cal, was scheduled for Nov. 23 and 24, and to be moved from Brooklyn to the Mohegan Sun. Now, other dates would have to be found, if possible. The D-1 Council favored the Nov. 25 date, which had been considered for a couple of weeks.

Look for several multiteam events, usually scheduled for glamorous or exotic locations, to be moved to bubbles where they can be TV-only events. The Mohegan Sun, and other locations such as Disney and IMG in Florida, could be used for numerous teams to be invited into a bubble to play several nonconference games in December.

The recommendations put before the D-1 Council would allow teams to play a maximum of 27 games, including multiteam events. For conferences that intend to start late, a minimum of 13 games must be played for NCAA Tournament consideration. The NCAA will recommend, but not require, at least four nonconference games. No preseason scrimmages or exhibitions will be allowed.

Conference play, which usually starts on or around Jan. 1, could be moved up to allow more scheduling flexibility and time for testing or to navigate travel restrictions. The UConn men and women are scheduled to play each of 10 Big East opponents both home and away, but the conference could decide to shorten the season, or split into divisions to cut down on travel. Several Big East teams are located in states now on Connecticut’s travel advisory, but that changes daily.

As all else in 2020, plans are tentative and the situation is fluid, and the Division I council plan to revisit scheduling and health/safety issues in October. The direction the coronavirus takes in the U.S. over the next two month could change the season, but the NCAA, after cancelling its basketball tournaments last season, wants to exhaust all methods for staging the lucrative “March Madness” in 2021. With several football conferences staging games, some with thousands of fans, within the last week, and the Big Ten changing course and playing football after all, there is momentum for getting college sports started.

“Winter is coming,” wrote UConn men’s coach Dan Hurley, with a basketball emoji, shortly after word of a start date was reported.

Dom Amore can be reached at damore@courant.com

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