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