NCAA.com correspondent Andy Katz spoke with NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt and NCAA Vice President of Women's Basketball Lynn Holzman a few days after the Division I Council approved a Nov. 25 start date for the 2020-21 men's and women's college basketball seasons. Here are some insights from the conversation, including their thoughts on the state of the 2021 NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments.
First, a quick refresher on schedule changes made for the 2020-21 season:
- Programs can begin preseason practice on Wednesday, Oct. 14 — a 42-day window to conduct no more than 30 practices.
- There will be no preseason exhibitions or scrimmages before Nov. 25.
- Teams must play a minimum of 13 games against DI opponents to be considered for NCAA championship selection.
- DI men's basketball has three scheduling options for the 2020-21 season.
- 24 regular-season games and up to three games in one multi-team event.
- 25 regular-season games and up to two games in one multi-team event.
- 25 regular-season games without playing in a multi-team event.
- DI women's basketball has two scheduling options for the 2020-21 season.
- 23 regular-season games and up to four additional games in one multi-team event.
- 25 regular-season games without participating in a multi-team event.
On the postseason
As of Sept. 18, both Gavitt and Holzman are anticipating the NCAA tournament to take place as planned. The plan as of now is to have 68 teams for the men and 64 for the women, multiple sites used throughout both events as well as the Men's Final Four in Indianapolis and a Women's Final Four in San Antonio, Texas.
𝐍𝐂𝐀𝐀 𝐒𝐨𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐥 𝐒𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐬 | 𝐄𝐩 𝟐𝟔— NCAA (@NCAA) September 18, 2020
NCAA SVP for basketball Dan Gavitt & NCAA VP of women's basketball Lynn Holzman join @TheAndyKatz to discuss the DI Council's decision to start basketball Nov. 25. https://t.co/qTn1M8hjbN
"As of today, we are planning and continue to plan to have our championship with the full field," Holzman told Katz. "If we have to pivot to make different decisions in order to ensure that health and safety we will."
The introduction of in-season disruption could pose new challenges in evaluating teams for the postseason. But Gavitt seemed confident in a committee's ability to adapt and adjust its criteria as needed.
On the new start of the season
Gavitt credited the advancements in testing as being fundamental to the season starting Nov. 25. The new start date shortens the calendar by 15 days, a proponent of how the Oversight Committee came to a 27-game maximum for the year, should teams participate in a multi-team event. That's down from a 31-game maximum from prior seasons. The four-game reduction is based on four play dates (two per week) during the 15 days that aren't now part of the 2020-21 season.
Another helpful point favoring this change was that at least three-quarters of Division I schools will have concluded their fall term or moved online for remaining classes and exams. A less-populated campus is a more controllable environment. It seems as though other dates were suggested, but Gavitt cited possible disruption in advocacy of the Nov. 25 start.
"Once you have disruption, then you have far fewer play dates and time to get in a full regular season," Gavitt told Katz. "It's very likely basketball seasons will be disrupted. We're hoping those disruptions are few and minimal."
Gavitt said that while a minimum four nonconference games are recommended, they aren't required.
One thing Gavitt does not believe has been fully recognized yet is the importance of physically and mentally preparing student-athletes and coaches for the season. Beginning Sept. 21, practice time increases from eight hours a week to 12. This time is intended for teams to build in more conditioning and skill instruction in preparation of the season as some schools have had limited access to facilities due to the pandemic.
"Athletic trainers and team physicians and coaches told us over the course of the summer that, in many cases, student-athletes weren't able to be on campus since early March," Gavitt told Katz.