Virginia opens the season ranked fourth in the Associated Press preseason poll and is picked to win the ACC, with the conference tournament slated for Capital One Arena in March.
Here are some frequently asked questions about the upcoming season:
When does college basketball season start?
The first games for both men and women are Nov. 25, as approved by the NCAA Division I Council. The original start date had been Nov. 10.
There are scheduling requirements for men’s and women’s programs to qualify for the NCAA tournament.
On the men’s side, schools can schedule 24 regular season games and participate in one multi-team event with up to three games; 25 regular season games and one multi-team event with up to two games; or 25 regular season games without a multi-team event.
Women’s teams can schedule 23 regular season games and one multi-team event with up to four games or 25 regular season games without a multi-team event.
Who are the top teams?
Among the men, Gonzaga is the preseason No. 1 team, according to the Associated Press poll. The next four are Baylor, Villanova, Virginia and Iowa.
On the women’s side, South Carolina is No. 1, followed by Stanford, Connecticut, Baylor and Louisville. Maryland checked in at No. 12. Baylor is still the defending women’s champion after topping Notre Dame in the 2019 title game.
Are teams practicing?
Yes; practice began Oct. 14. Schools have 42 days to conduct a maximum of 30 practices, during which time players are permitted to work out 20 hours per week, four hours per day, and must have one day off.
The council also approved a transition period from Sept. 21 to Oct. 13 when teams were allowed to participate in strength and conditioning, basketball-related meetings and skill instruction for a maximum of 12 hours per week, with an eight-hour cap on instruction.
Are there any teams or conferences not playing?
The Ivy League last week became the first conference to announce it would not play winter sports, leaving its eight men’s and women’s basketball teams without a season. Also Bethune-Cookman of the MEAC announced it would not be participating in winter sports.
The pandemic has forced roughly two dozen other schools, including Seton Hall and Connecticut, to pause basketball operations because of positive tests and contact tracing.
Will fans be allowed at games?
It’s unclear how many fans, if any at all, will be permitted to attend games. Maryland, in an email to season ticket holders, announced Monday there would be no fans at men’s or women’s games at Xfinity Center.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) recently implemented stricter protocols for the commonwealth, reducing capacity at indoor events to 25, down from 250, which certainly would affect games at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville.
Duke has announced it will not have spectators at Cameron Indoor Stadium, effectively nullifying one of the most imposing home-court advantages in the country.
North Carolina Coach Roy Williams said he is uncertain whether Smith Center in Chapel Hill will allow fans, adding that chairs in the bench area will be spaced apart to allow for adequate social distancing among players, coaches and staff.
Will there be nonconference games and preseason tournaments?
There are plenty scheduled, most notably at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun casino and resort, which is hosting 40 men’s and women’s teams for 45 games over 11 days in what has been dubbed “Bubbleville.”
The men’s games begin Nov. 25 with Pod One teams featuring Virginia, Florida, Maine and Saint Peter’s. The Cavaliers face Maine and then draw Florida the day after Thanksgiving.
Other marquee nonconference games on the men’s side include the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which matches Virginia against Michigan State, and the Big 12-Big East Battle, which includes Texas playing Villanova. The three-time national champion Wildcats also play Virginia on Dec. 19 at Madison Square Garden.
For the women, No. 1 South Carolina is scheduled to visit No. 3 Connecticut on Feb. 8, and the Huskies will be at No. 3 Baylor on Jan. 7.
Some nonconference tournaments have changed sites because of the pandemic, and others have had teams withdraw.
The Maui Invitational, for instance, will be played in Asheville, N.C. The Virgin Islands tournament is coming to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the District. A tournament originally set for the Bahamas was moved to South Dakota.
How will conference play work?
The ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC, Horizon and Summit have unveiled conference schedules, with some having left multiple potential dates for games to allow for flexibility during the pandemic.
Each ACC team, for instance, will play 20 games with home and road matchups against two primary rivals, four repeat opponents home and away and single games against eight opponents.
The ACC also announced any games that are unable to be played on the originally scheduled date will be rescheduled only if both teams’ schedules permit. Miami already has announced its season opener against Stetson has been postponed because of a positive test in Stetson’s program.
The Mountain West has moved to a 20-game conference schedule in which schools will play a two-game series at a specific site, with a day of rest in between games.
Conference tournaments remain up in the air, particularly given a spike in cases nationally with winter and flu season creating additional layers of uncertainty.
How will the NCAA tournament work?
The NCAA announced Monday that the 68-team men’s college basketball tournament will take place at one site, adding it is in talks with officials in Indiana about conducting the sport’s showcase event in or around Indianapolis, the host of this season’s Final Four.
Originally, 13 predetermined sites were selected to host the preliminary rounds of the NCAA tournament.
“We have learned so much from monitoring other successful sporting events in the last several months, and it became clear it’s not feasible to manage this complex championship in so many different states with the challenges presented by the pandemic,” Dan Gavitt, the NCAA senior vice president of basketball, said in a statement.
The NCAA has not announced plans for adjusting this season’s women’s basketball tournament.
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