College basketball will has finally begun after the delay of the start of the season. This season will be exciting to see after last season ended abruptly due to the pandemic. The season came to an end as conference tournaments were just beginning. The loss of most conference tournaments led to the cancellation of the NCAA tournament, which caused the NCAA to miss out on the biggest moneymaker in college sports. Division II and Division III tournaments were also canceled.
Scheduling this year looks a bit different compared to its usual format. There are no exhibition games or scrimmages to prepare for the season for Division I, II, and III. Each year, to start off the season, there are various tournaments that take place. For Division I, those tournaments are usually at neutral sites in places like the Bahamas and Maui. This year, these tournaments have either been canceled or moved to different locations.
As far as the regular season goes, it is shortened down by four games. It will be a conference-heavy schedule with teams playing less non-conference games. This situation could impact smaller schools needing a big-time win over a power five school to get them into the tournament. Also, this season setup can impact power five schools needing a few more wins on their resume to catapult them into the NCAA tournament.
The last big impact that this modified schedule could have on teams is that it could cause them to lose momentum going into the season. Teams with a lot of newcomers will struggle the most with not having the typical pre-season and non-conference games because they will not have a chance to play an actual game together until their real season begins. Some newcomers may have issues fitting into their new team dynamic, but teams will not get a chance to test their chemistry until they are in the heat of important games.
As of now, the NCAA tournament looks like it will be played this year. It will look different compared to previous years, but the details about how the tournament will look are still being worked out. For Division I, the national tournament brings in a lot of revenue. On the other hand, Division II and III don’t bring in anywhere close to what Division I does. With that being said, the chances of Division II and III tournaments being canceled or suffering from any major change is substantially higher. When talking to Greenville Men’s Basketball‘s head coach, George Barber, he believes COVID testing will play a large role in the season. “We will be testing three times a week and will also play teams who are able to test three times a week. If teams are unable to have the proper testing, then they aren’t able to play.” Testing, as it was expected, will be an indispensable requirement for teams to participate in intercollegiate athletics. Schools without the financial ability to test often throughout the week will be at risk for not having a season at all.
On top of some teams not being able to play, it is still uncertain if there will be any fans at the games or even the tournament, and if that is the case, the revenue that the tournament typically brings would be negatively impacted. For the coaches and players, it will be a lot different. Right now, it appears that the tournament will be held in one region, instead of the typical multiple regions. At the moment, all the measures and requirements that might apply to the tournament are unknown, but one thing is for sure certain; it won’t be the same.
For Division II and III, there are more questions lingering about the season. The chances of the season being canceled are higher. Because these divisions do not bring in as much money as the Division I teams, the NCAA would not have much of a problem canceling the seasons of Division II and III teams if need be. With all of the unknown scenarios, this season of college basketball will be interesting to say the least.
Media by Jose Soutullo Fernández.