How the NCAA Basketball Restart affects colleges in Utah

by Max Westerman | Imagine you are a promising college basketball star.

You garnered All-American honors in high school and were a top recruit. You remember your parents sacrificing countless hours driving you to and from practices and games. You remember all of the focus and determination it took for you to prove your talent to fans, teammates, coaches, scouts, and opponents. Basketball has been your rock as you passed the rock around the three-point arc. You have played for a D-I school now for three years and this should be the year you are finally able to enter the NBA draft.

Here comes March Madness.

You prepare to step into the limelight as this tournament is by far the brightest stage for college basketball. So much rides on you and your team’s success. How far will you advance this year? The tournament is your opportunity to lock in your potential and to do it in front of millions on the CBS national broadcasts. 

Pandemic.

Tournament cancelled.

This was the experience of countless budding stars as they watched their beloved March Madness tournament fizzle. On March 15, 2020 NCAA Senior Vice President Dan Gavitt announced that all Winter and Spring tournaments would be cancelled. College Basketball was the only major sport to cancel the remaining part of their season. All of the other major sports out there were able to restart play at a later date.

As the world learned more about the spread of the virus, various methods of sports reintroduction took place. The NBA showed that the safest prevention method was to create a bubble. The Lakers won the championship and the bubble held strong for nearly three months. The NFL has followed less rigid set of guidelines and after week three, positive tests started to surface. The MLB’s strategy was similar. They postponed 43 regular season games due to Covid cases. The MLB changed to a bubble format for the playoffs after witnessing their shortcomings coupled with the success of the NBA, WNBA and NHL.

So how does the NCAA plan on handling these uncertain times?

Compensating for missed college basketball games isn’t as simple as stacking seven-inning double-headers. Unlike the MLB, college basketball will struggle with postponing games as there are normally a mere 27-35 games a year. Basketball puts serious physical strain on each athlete and these players are full-time students when they’re not on the court.

The NCAA stated that they plan to begin the men’s and women’s college basketball seasons on November 25th. This decision came as higher frequency testing was made available. Approximately 75% of D1 schools will be done with the fall semester or working virtually with online learning. The NCAA also decided to decrease the amount of recommended non-conference games to four. To put this in perspective, the Aggies played 14 non-conference games last year and the Utes played 13.

Why don’t they get rid of all non-conference games to limit the amount of each team’s travel during this pandemic? 

The NCAA believes that there must be at least a small number of non-conference games so that talent level between conferences can be assessed. These non-conference games are often the deciding factor when it comes time to March Madness seeding. In addition, if schools feel their students are at risk, they will be given the choice to opt out of non-conference play.

All teams can start practicing on October 14th and are allowed a maximum of 30 practices between then and the season start. No exhibitions or closed scrimmages are allowed before that date. There is still lots of information about the 2020-2021 season yet to be revealed but come March, we will all be filling out our brackets once again.

Utah College Basketball upcoming:

– BYU’s first action this season is going to come competing in the Legend’s Classic. This four team tournament which includes USC, Vanderbilt, and Uconn will be played on November 23rd and 24th at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. Their first regular season game will come at Pepperdine on 12/31.

– Utah State’s first game will be played away against conference rival Air Force on 12/29.

– University of Utah and Weber State have yet to release schedules for the 2020-2021 season.

Leave a Reply