After much anticipation throughout the basketball community, the NCAA Division I Council officially announced the first contest date of men’s and women’s basketball to November 25 for the 2020-21 season. The official start date for practice will begin on October 14.
The November 25 date represents the majority of NCAA DI schools who will have finished their fall semesters by then and creating a safer campus environment with limited student population present. December and early part of January leaves a six to seven-week window to kick off the season.
“The new season start date near the Thanksgiving holiday provides the optimal opportunity to successfully launch the basketball season,” said NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt per release. “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 total number of contests a team can play is reduced by 4 for the regular season due to the late start. Women’s basketball teams can schedule 23 regular season games if they participate in one multiple-team event with four games OR they can schedule 25 regular season games if they chose to opt out of a multiple-team event. Given the timing and restrictions, we can expect a plethora of Thanksgiving “bubble” tournaments” to kick off the season and allow for a safe environment for teams to compete out of conference.
In addition to the announcement, the NCAA announced that no exhibition games or closed scrimmages will be allowed prior to that date. In a “normal” season this is common practice for teams to hold 1-2 of these before their season begins. The October 14 start date for practice means teams will have 42 days to conduct a total of 30 practices before their first regular season game.
In order to be considered tournament eligible, teams are required to participate in a minimum of 13 regular season games against other Division I opponents. Expect waivers to be available given extreme situations limiting a team to be able to see these requirements.
From September 21- October 13, the Council implemented a “transition period” from preseason activities to in-season practice. The period is focused on the mental and physical well being of players as a result of the pandemic and will require two days off per week during that time. Teams will be able to condition, get in the weight room, meet and have on-court skill instruction for 12 hours per week, with 8 of those hours allowed for on court workouts.
Dead Period Extended
In addition to the official start date, the NCAA D1 council announced that they have extended their current recruiting dead period through January 1. The dead period has been in place since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic with no D1 institutions able to recruit this spring, summer and fall. This means that coaches cannot go off campus to recruit or bring recruits to campus on official visits until 2021 at this time.
They can continue to communicate with recruits via phone calls, texts and video conference software. They are also allowed to recruit via live stream of various certified tournament ran throughout the country.