As August counts down its final days, many are focused on trying to get college football up and running in the next few weeks, at least for those who still hope to play that sport in the fall.
Decisions also have to be made soon for college basketball, whose normal regular season would begin in just over two months.
Obviously in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, few things are normal, and that may include the start of the 2020-21 basketball seasons for men and women.
“In the coming weeks, the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Oversight Committees will take the lead with me in a collaborative process of finalizing any recommendations for consideration by the NCAA Division I Council for the start of the college basketball season,” said the NCAA senior vice president for basketball Dan Gavitt. “By mid-September, we will provide direction about whether the season and practice start on time or a short-term delay is necessitated by the ongoing pandemic.”
Originally practices for NCAA Division I basketball for both men and women were slated to start on Sept. 29 and the first regular season games could be played beginning Nov. 10.
Now reportedly the NCAA is looking at four primary options to the start of D-I basketball season. The first would entail no changes, with the first practice opportunity beginning Sept. 29 and the first regular season games on Nov. 10. Other primary possibilities include: first practice Oct. 9 with first game Nov. 20; first practice Oct. 14 with first game Nov. 25, and first practice Oct. 24 with first game Dec. 4.
Certainly other start dates are also still possible, but these are the four options that seem to be getting the most attention from the NCAA at the moment.
The Pac-12 Conference has already announced that its members won’t play any intercollegiate athletes until at least Jan. 1, 2021. Other leagues could also make decisions for later starts, or they could follow whatever guidelines the NCAA puts forth.
“As we prepare for the 2020-21 college basketball season, we have exercised patience and discipline in monitoring the effects of COVID-19 and making decisions regarding the season, explained Dan Gavitt, whose father Dave Gavitt was one of the founders of the Big East Conference and the league’s first commissioner from 1979-1990. “We have learned a great deal over the course of the summer, and with health and safety being our priority, we have developed and studied contingency plans for alternatives to the scheduled Nov. 10 start date.”
The 2020-21 men’s basketball season should feature plenty of intrigue for West Virginia fans. Bob Huggins’ squad finished last year’s COVID-shortened season with a 21-10 record and ranked No. 24 in the final A.P. poll. Six of the Mountaineers’ top seven scorers from that squad are due to return this coming season.
ESPN recently rated WVU No. 17 in its way-too-early preseason predictions, and the latest bracketolgy by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, released Aug. 10, listed West Virginia as a No. 3 seed for the NCAA Tournament.
The Big 12 Conference doesn’t figure to provide an easy path this season, as six of the 10 league teams are predicted by Lunardi to make The Dance – Baylor a No. 1 seed, Kansas a No. 2, Texas Tech and WVU No. 3s, Texas a No. 4 and Oklahoma a No. 10.
Six of the 10 Big 12 teams may be expected to earn a spot in the 2021 NCAA Tournament field, but before there can be a postseason, there has to be a regular season.
“We recognize that we are living and operating in an uncertain time, and it is likely that mid-September will be just the first milestone for many important decisions pertaining to the regular season and the NCAA basketball championships,” noted Gavitt. “While circumstances may warrant flexibility resulting in a different and perhaps imperfect season, the ultimate goal is to safely provide student-athletes and teams with a great college basketball experience.”