NCAA pushes basketball start date to Nov. 25

No word yet from Maui Invitational, scheduled for Nov. 23-25 in Lahaina

North Carolina coach Roy Williams directs his players during a Maui Invitational game on Nov. 23, 2016. The Tar Heels are part of this year’s field, with games scheduled for Nov. 23-25 at the Lahaina Civic Center. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Associated Press

The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for nonconference games.

“The fact our campuses will be clearing out, it will be possible to just further control the exposures, and the 25th gives us that opportunity,” said Division I Council chair Grace Calhoun, the athletic director at Penn.

The new start date will almost certainly force a change to this year’s Maui Jim Maui Invitational. The men’s basketball tournament is scheduled for Nov. 23-25 at the Lahaina Civic Center, though organizer KemperLesnik acknowledged last month that this year’s event might not take place on the Valley Isle for the first time in its 36-year history due to the pandemic.

KemperLesnik did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Maui News on Wednesday.

The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, a Saturday. Calhoun said the council wanted to avoid a weekend start date because of potential overlaps of basketball and football games on campuses.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27.

“The rationale was that during the season teams tend to play an average of two games a week, so the fact we’re shortening the season by two weeks necessitated the reduction in games so we’re not being counterproductive and trying to jam more in a shortened season,” Calhoun said.

The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13. Calhoun said the low minimum is an acknowledgement that schools probably will experience different levels of COVID-19 cases and have to alter schedules.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14. Beginning Monday, teams will be allowed to participate in strength and conditioning and sport-related meetings and skill instruction for up to 12 hours a week, with an eight-hour limit on skill instruction.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed. It also was recommended each team play a minimum of four nonconference games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

* The Maui News contributed to this story.


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