The return of college basketball

NCAA gears up for a Nov. 25 return

For the first time since the annual March Madness tournament was cancelled in March, college basketball looms on the horizon. In an announcement made on Sep. 16, the NCAA officially approved the starting date for both men and women’s college basketball as Nov. 25. 

Recently, the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences—who had both originally postponed all athletics, including basketball, until 2021—reversed course on their decision. They will now begin the season in line with the other conferences on Nov. 25.

Of course, the season will look anything but normal due to the current situation with COVID-19. The NCAA has mandated the following: “daily self-health checks, the appropriate use of face coverings and social distancing during training, competition and outside of athletics, testing strategies for all athletics activities, including pre-season, regular season and postseason, testing and results within 72 hours of competition in high contact risk sports, and member schools must adhere to public health standards set by their local communities.”

“Any recommendation on a pathway toward a safe return to sport will depend on the national trajectory of COVID-19 spread,” NCAA Chief Medical Director Brian Hainline said. “The idea of sport resocialization is predicated on a scenario of reduced or flattened infection rates.”

After debate and observation, the NCAA has now reached a consensus on how to responsibly handle the upcoming basketball season during COVID-19. 

“We had the benefit of time, watching other sports starting and learning from them. It’s not perfect, and we weren’t even shooting for perfection. But I do hope we’ve achieved a responsible and unified plan to start college basketball,” NCAA vice president for basketball Dan Gavitt said in an interview with Sports Illustrated. 

Additionally, many of the traditional mid-season tournaments that are usually held in November or December have been moved to a familiar site for basketball fans — Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida, which is currently the site of the NBA’s “bubble.” The NBA has been having success with their bubble format and COVID-19 protocols, which have allowed them to play out their regular and postseason without incident.

Out of the 10 major college basketball tournaments that usually take place across the country, eight have been moved to Orlando. Many top tier teams will be playing in these tournaments, such as Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State, UCLA and many more. 

With enhanced daily testing, teams have now gotten approval to begin practicing and workouts. Players and coaches are excited to finally be back after their long hiatus dating back to early March.

“They’ve been out of the gym for a long time,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “They all want to play basketball. It’s like Christmas morning.”