On Wednesday, the NCAA officially announced some alterations and changes to the upcoming 2020-21 college basketball season schedule. The season was expected to start on Tuesday, November 10th, and in fact, Marquette men’s basketball had announced a schedule that featured a game scheduled for that day. Instead, due to the continuing and ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the season will now start on Wednesday, November 25th, just slightly more than two weeks later.
That start date goes for both men’s and women’s basketball, and there are also changes for the number of games that teams will be allowed to play. This is slightly confusing to understand and/or explain, so I’m just going to leave it in the NCAA’s words:
The maximum number of contests was reduced by four, given that the season will start 15 days later than originally scheduled. In men’s basketball, teams can schedule 24 regular-season games and participate in one multiple-team event that includes up to three games; 25 regular-season games and participate in one multiple-team event that includes up to two games; or 25 regular-season games if a team does not participate in a multiple-team event.
In women’s basketball, teams can schedule 23 regular-season games and participate in one multiple-team event that includes up to four games or schedule 25 regular-season games if a team does not compete in a multiple-team event.
Teams will meet sport sponsorship requirements and be considered for NCAA championship selection if they play 13 games, which represents a 50 percent reduction of the current minimum. For NCAA championship consideration, all 13 games must be against another Division I opponent. The Division I Men’s Basketball and Division I Women’s Basketball committees also recommended teams play a minimum of four nonconference games.
Okay, so let’s start with immediately known facts that come from this.
Marquette men’s basketball has had five games at the very least postponed and potentially outright cancelled:
- Tuesday, November 10 vs Lehigh
- Saturday, November 14 vs Albany
- Tuesday, November 17 or Wednesday, November 18 at a Big Ten team in the Gavitt Games (this opponent was never officially announced)
- Saturday, November 21 vs Rhode Island
- Sunday, November 22 vs Minnesota or UCF
Those games join MU’s trip to Los Angeles to play UCLA on the scrap heap of history. They were scheduled to be played before November 25th, and now, by NCAA rule, they can not take place on those days. The Albany game was officially part of the Hall Of Fame Tip-Off event, as was the Rhode Island and Minnesota/UCF contests, and there has been movement from the folks at the Hall of Fame to figure out how to get multiple multi-team events on the board at the Mohegan Sun Casino. Those plans are nowhere near finalized, of course, as a lot of things got upended by the NCAA permanently setting the date on the 25th. Those three games are the most likely candidates of the five to actually take place at some point elsewhere down the road because of the Mohegan Sun bubble plan, but that also could and probably will require a massive amount of shifting the rest of Marquette’s schedule around. I have zero idea when we’ll hear anything from the MU front office as to what games will still be played or when those will happen. Word seems to be seeping out that the Hall of Fame Tip-Off event would open the season over Thanksgiving weekend, but again, nothing is finalized or in stone quite yet.
The other thing to take into account here is the limit on games. With the 24 or 25 game limit from the NCAA, if the Big East is set on playing the full expected 20 game schedule, then that means there’s only space for four or five non-conference games on top of whatever the Golden Eagles get out of their multi-team event. It’s also possible that the Big East elects to create a playing bubble at some point to get everyone in the league to play 10 games — one against every other league member — just to get a schedule officially completed. That would give Marquette freedom to schedule as many as 15 non-conference games! That seems crazy! It would also require the Golden Eagles to play at least three non-conference games in order to even be eligible for an NCAA tournament that we’re still not 100% sure will have the traditional 68 team format.
There’s upsides and downsides here. It’s more likely than not that neutral site bubble games will get played safely for sure. Can we say the same thing about a 20 game Big East schedule using home arenas scattered all across the country? Maybe not! Is it in the Big East’s best interest to execute that 20 game schedule to make sure they cash those Fox Sports checks? It sure is! The only thing that we know for sure right now is that we have no idea what the official plan for the season is going to be. Hopefully we’ll find out soon. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a metric ton of vacation time to spend at the full time gig and I’ll happily burn it to watch all of the basketball.
As for Megan Duffy and the women’s team, they never announced a schedule over the summer like the men’s team did and so we have no idea what is or is not on or off the books right now. Quite honestly, we don’t really know what’s up with anything on the men’s schedule right now either, so not even knowing a schedule in the first place isn’t the worst thing in the world. However, last November, the folks running Battle 4 Atlantis announced that they were starting up a version of their event for women’s basketball, and the Golden Eagles were set to be a part of the inaugural field. On Thursday, B4A announced that the event, for both the men’s and women’s tournament, will be paused for 2020 and they will return in 2021. However, that news was immediately met by every single college basketball reporter with a text message plan that the event is still expected to take place at the Pentagon in South Dakota. I don’t understand how that works, other than I guess Atlantis — the resort in the Bahamas — isn’t funding the thing at all, but the men’s basketball teams are still going to play the tournament anyway. No word as to what that means about the women’s bracket, so I guess we’re just left twiddling our thumbs until someone at the McGuire Center hits the publish button on a press release. There’s a lot of moving targets here, but it would be really cool if all of the people trying to set up non-conference event bubbles would remember that women’s basketball is also a thing that needs a way to play non-conference games, too.
The women’s side of things also has the same issue with Big East scheduling as the men. What the league decides to do for a conference schedule is going to have a big impact on what individual teams do for a non-conference schedule because of that 25 game limit and/or that 13 game minimum.
This doesn’t really have anything to do with scheduling and where Marquette stands as a result of it, but: Good luck to the selection committees of both sports when it comes time to try and figure out the difference between a 12-2 team that won their conference and a 20-4 team that also won their conference. We’re potentially going to see some very wild differences in records this season, and all it will do is create headaches when it comes to seeding and bracketing.
I think that’s about all of the information — or lack of information in certain spots — we have at this point. With a little bit over nine weeks to go until November 25th, there’s going to have to be a lot of information getting shared in very little time. I have no idea what is or is not going to be released to the public and when, but we’ll try to keep you up to speed on the Marquette-related stuff as quickly as possible when it’s available.