College basketball teams should find out more about season ahead on Wednesday

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Highlights: Dayton closes first half with 20-5 run vs. Virginia Tech

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Anthony Grant hopes his team gets enough non-conference opportunities if season starts later than normal

One year ago at this time, the Dayton Flyers men’s basketball team knew its non-conference schedule. It knew when and where it was playing its 18 Atlantic 10 conference games. It knew its preseason opponent and even its secret scrimmage opponent. It knew, of course, when it was starting practice.

That’s all up in the air this year midway through September — and that’s no surprise. This is 2020. Uncertainty has been a huge part of life since the coronavirus pandemic began.

However, on Wednesday, college basketball teams across the country should get some clarity on the 2020-21 season. That’s when the Division I Council is expected to vote on start date for the men’s and women’s basketball seasons, which reportedly will be pushed back from Nov. 10 to Nov. 21, though earlier reports had Nov. 25 as the start date.

According to Matt Norlander, of CBS Sports, teams will also find out how many regular-season games they can play. In a typical season, it’s 31, but the new target number is 28 if a team plays in a multi-team event, such as the Myrtle Beach Invitational, which Dayton was supposed to play in from Nov. 19-22, or 26 if a team does not play in such an event.

At this point, there’s little doubt there will be a season and a NCAA tournament to follow, though Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketballl, last week shot down the Atlantic Coast Conference’s idea of allowing every Division I team to participate in the big dance in 2021.

The real question is: What will the season look like?

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Dayton coach Anthony Grant addressed that issue while appearing on Andy Katz’s March Madness 365 podcast last week with Texas coach Shaka Smart and Purdue coach Matt Painter.

“For me, we’ve got to do what’s best for the game and making sure we all can get on the court safely,” Grant said. “I guess I would say give me the rules of the race before I tell you what race I want to run. At the end of the day, if we’re going to go to a late-November start date, it means we’ll miss some opportunities to play in some games early in the year that we’ve all scheduled. At a Dayton in the A-10, those games are really important to us. So if we lose those games, then on the back end, how are we being evaluated at the end of the year when it comes to NCAA selection, at-large bids and those kind of things? It’s important we look at the front end and control the controllables, but I’d also like for the committee to consider, ‘OK, what’s the criteria if some of those games can’t be rescheduled?’"

Dayton has not announced any games prior to the Myrtle Beach Invitational but does have a number of key non-conference games scheduled in November and December. Southern Methodist is scheduled to play at UD on Nov. 29. Other home games include: Indiana State (Dec. 2) and Mississippi (Dec. 19). Dayton also has a road game scheduled at Nevada (Dec. 6) and a neutral-court game in Atlanta against Mississippi State (Dec. 12).

In most seasons, Dayton has used victories in those games to build its NCAA tournament resume. Last year, it beat Georgia and Virginia Tech in the Maui Invitational and Saint Mary’s on a neutral court in Phoenix. It then finished 18-0 in the A-10 and would have had a chance to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament if the COVID-19 crisis hadn’t brought the entire sports world to an abrupt halt.

It was still the best regular-season in school history. The Flyers set a school record for victories with a 29-2 mark. With six key players returning, UD should be poised for another strong season in 2020-21. That’s assuming it gets the chance to prove itself outside the conference.

“We don’t have the luxury of having those quad one and quad two games that some of the power fives can get in their conferences,” Grant said. “We won’t have access to those if we’re not able to play in some of these exempt tournaments. I speak for not only Dayton but several other schools in our league and other teams across the country that will miss those opportunities.”

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The non-conference season could have a whole different look this year if teams follow the direction of the NBA and try to play in bubble-like settings in Orlando and elsewhere.

“The one thing i would say on the side of the bubble is just having the consideration of what type of environment are you in,” Grant said. “In the NBA in Orlando, there’s no fans, so you’re neutral. You’ve got a neutral site for everybody. If you’re talking certain programs hosting tournaments on their home courts, what kind of sense does that make for you or your program. We’d be very interested in hosting something here. I assume we’re all going to have a limited amount of fans, if any, that can be at these venues. For us, every option is on the table.”

A late-November start would give teams the chance to play maybe eight non-conference games, Grant said. He pointed out that athletes would be taking final exams as usual in December, so they would not be playing games at that time.

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Grant said the sooner teams have answers about the season, the better. In most years, his team starts official practices in the final days of September or early October — 42 days before the first game — but workouts never really stop in September.

Jon Rothstein, of CBS Sports, reported Sunday the Division I Council will vote Wednesday to allow teams to spend eight hours per week on basketball activies on the court, instead of the normal four.

“This would give programs a pseudo ‘training camp’ prior to the first day of official practice, which will be six weeks prior to college basketball’s start date,” Rothstein wrote. “Could be massive for programs with large numbers of newcomers who didn’t have offseason workout time due to COVID-19.”