Every sport has been impacted. But the onset of COVID-19 has absolutely crushed college basketball. It all started with the cancelation of MARCH MADNESS. All of my brackets busted. Unthinkable. There was talk about playing the games later. Unfortunately, that never happened.
As we approach the 2020-21 hoops season, there is still a major concern. The NCAA recently released several protocols. The Division 1 hoopsters will begin to play a few weeks later this winter. There will be many changes. Many of the non-conference or early-season games won’t happen. To be eligible to play in the NCAA tournament, teams must play a minimum of 13 contests. The usual number is 25 games. The MAUI Invitational will be held in North Carolina. And ESPN is trying to move most of their usual tournaments to the same Disney venue that hosted the NBA playoffs. Many leagues have not released when or where they will play. Several are considering bi-weekly “pods” where teams could gather at one site. A few of the power conferences like the IVY LEAGUE and PAC 12 have previously stated they wouldn’t play any sports until 2021. The idea of spectators and concessions is still in the air.
“This basketball resocialization guidance is based on the best information available in a rapidly changing COVID-19 environment.” NCAA President Mark Emmert explained. “It is predicated on the assumption that rapid testing capabilities will be readily available later this year. We will constantly assess emerging information as we prepare for the start of the basketball season at the end of November.”
One notable aspect of the guidelines is encouraging schools to put student-athletes and “essential basketball personnel” into a separate tier that will allow them to “best monitor tracing and potential quarantine procedures in case of one or more positive tests for the coronavirus.” The three tests per week would occur on non-consecutive days, with the NCAA saying “schools should consider placing the entire group under quarantine for 14 days” if one person in Tier 1 tests positive. When teams go on the road to play, travel parties will ideally be limited to no more than 30 people with schools encouraged “to consider” using things like “private cars or chartered planes; prepackaged meals or room service; same-day travel to avoid overnight stays.”
Lycoming College and many Division 3 schools are in the same boat. I recently had a chance to talk with the Warrior’s Head Coach. Mike McGarvey is doing the best he can. He and his players are adjusting to the new norm. Lycoming is allowed to do some drills. But it is very different from what they are used to. Every player and coach must wear a mask on the floor. The Warriors aren’t allowed to do anything LIVE. No full contact, and they must keep their social distance.
“It has been a challenge,” Coach McGarvey explained. “But our guys seem to understand. We are thankful to get an opportunity to get some work in. We remain optimistic. We are hoping to get some games in. It’s hard to say what will happen. Our Conference leadership will have to make some rather tough choices.”
Uncertainty is also the new norm. Unfortunately, we can only keep our fingers crossed, folks. I love the game of basketball. It has been a huge part of my life. I struggle to find the right answers when someone asks. These questions have become more frequent of late. Who knows what will go down? I feel bad for my players. I have yet to hear anything from the PIAA. They are playing it safe by not responding to my inquiries. The same can be said locally. No one from District 4 has any answers. I also remain optimistic. I am hoping to play some hoops. Hang in there and wear those masks, kids. Cheers.