The COVID-19 pandemic has created a great deal of chaos in 2020. Conference tournaments were cancelled. The NCAA Tournament did not happen for the first time in who knows how long. Teams had to wait longer to get together to practice. Recruiting was done via Zoom meetings rather than in-person activities. COVID-19 has just been a lot to handle over the past nine months.
However, on Sept. 16, the NCAA Division I Council set a start date for the 2020-21 season. Nov. 25 is going to be the glorious return of college basketball. Or, at least that was the feeling when the announcement came.
College basketball writers began their countdowns. Teams began their countdowns. And for some, those countdowns continue through today.
But, with the news that ESPN has cancelled all multi-team events in Orlando, the agenda has changed. It appears that many college basketball writers are now of the opinion that conference-only games should be played. This means, no Utah Valley-BYU, no UTRGV-Texas, no Seattle-UW and so forth.
I wanted non-conference games.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee definitely wanted non-conference games.
But to have an NCAA Tournament, we have to get games in.
And the easiest way to do that with COVID-19 protocols is to have conference only schedules.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) October 26, 2020
Think about this tweet for a moment. This means that it’s not okay for UTRGV to travel to Corpus Christi to play in-state rival Texas A&M Corpus Christi. But, it is okay for UTRGV to travel 1,400-plus miles to Chicago to play Chicago State. Does anyone see the vast illogic in that? Let’s point out something even more drastic. If this happens, Utah Valley won’t be able to play BYU despite the two schools separated by five miles. FIVE miles! Yet, Utah Valley will be expected to travel to Las Cruces or potentially Edinburg.
Moving the Goal Posts
Believe me when I say this. I am all about player safety and minimizing risk. But, why is it that one cancelled multi-team event leads to the goal posts moving and college basketball writers calling for conference-only games? Do they really think that COVID-19 discriminates against non-conference games? Perhaps cut down on the amount of non-conference games but don’t cut them out completely.
Would it really be that difficult for Georgia to play Georgia Tech? That’s a good non-conference matchup. What about Florida vs. Florida State?
Like this thread from CBB Central founder Kevin Sweeney talks about, it can be done. Rather than panic because one multi-team event collapses, take a deep breath and let Nov. 25 get here. Once the season tips, there will be hiccups along the way. But, if everyone has bought in to the necessary testing protocols and so forth, the season can move on.
Lesson learned from college football: everything seemed like it couldn’t be done, then the ball got snapped and everyone made it work. Over 90% of Power 5 games have been played. College basketball just needs to get to 11/25 and roll with the punches once they do.
— Kevin Sweeney (@CBB_Central) October 26, 2020
Texas, Texas A&M, Stanford, Washington, UCLA, Texas Tech, BYU and other big names are all on the non-conference slate for WAC schools. Most of these are in-state contests that don’t require a lot of travel. So, why not let these games happen? What will it hurt? And in the end all teams benefit from playing some non-conference games.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has left its mark. And some college basketball writers are using their influence to push an agenda. Let’s just hope that the college basketball world doesn’t cave and let COVID-19 continue to wreak havoc on the sport we love.