NCAA picks late-November start for college basketball season

The 2020-21 college basketball season will start Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving, the NCAA announced Wednesday.

“No exhibition games or closed scrimmages will be allowed before that date,” the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Oversight Committees announced. “Moving the start date back from Nov. 10 is intended to have contests begin when at least three-quarters of Division I schools will have concluded their fall terms or moved remaining instruction and exams online, creating a more controlled and less populated campus environment that may reduce the risk of COVID-19 that can occur between student-athletes and the broader student body population.”

The NCAA also will cut down the maximum number of regular-season games from 31 to 27 because of the later start date.

“In men’s basketball,” the committee announced, “teams can schedule 24 regular-season games and participate in one multiple-team event that includes up to three games; 25 regular-season games and participate in one multiple-team event that includes up to two games; or 25 regular-season games if a team does not participate in a multiple-team event.

“In women’s basketball, teams can schedule 23 regular-season games and participate in one multiple-team event that includes up to four games or schedule 25 regular-season games if a team does not compete in a multiple-team event.”

Teams can start practicing six weeks before their first game. That would be Oct. 14 at the earliest. They can hold up to 30 practices in the 42-day span.

There will also be a transitional period from Sept. 21 through Oct. 14 when teams “may participate in strength and conditioning activities, sport-related meetings and skill instruction for up to 12 hours a week, with an eight-hour limit on skill instruction. Players must have two days off per week during the transition period.”

In August, Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball, said he was confident there would be a season and that many contingency plans were being discussed. He said then he expected a decision to be made about the start date by mid-September.

“The new season start date near the Thanksgiving holiday provides the optimal opportunity to successfully launch the basketball season,” Gavitt said Wednesday. “It is a grand compromise of sorts and a unified approach that focuses on the health and safety of student-athletes competing towards the 2021 Division I basketball championships.”

The 2019-20 college basketball season was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic on March 11. All conference tournaments that hadn’t already been completed were cancelled that day, and the NCAA tournament was also cancelled. Those cancellations ended the season for Dayton, which set a school record for victories with a 29-2 regular season and rose to No. 3 in the Associated Press top-25 poll.

Wright State finished 25-7 last season and won the Horizon League regular-season title. Miami finished 13-19. Ohio State finished 21-10.

Dayton was scheduled to play in the Myrtle Beach Invitational from Nov. 19-22. Jon Rothstein, of CBS Sports, reported Tuesday that event will move to Orlando along with seven other tournaments and will be held sometime early in the season.

Dayton had 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).

Ohio State was scheduled to play in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas from Nov. 25-27, but Rothstein reported that event will move to Sioux Falls, S.D.

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