Cal Basketball: NCAA Sets Nov. 25 as Opening Day for College Hoops

Photo courtesy of Cal Athletics

Jeff Faraudo

Amid the swirl of activity on the college football front Wednesday, nearly lost was significant news about college basketball.

The NCAA Division I Council voted that games can begin on Wednesday, Nov. 25 — the day before Thanksgiving — and that teams that schedule games for that date will be allowed to begin full practices on Oct. 14, with a maximum of 30 practices.

Here’s more from the NCAA on changes to the 2020-21 basketball landscape:

— The number of regular-season games that men’s teams are allowed to schedule has been reduced from 28 to 24 games while participating in one multiple-team event that includes three games. Or they can schedule 25 games, with one multiple-team event that has two games. Or 25 games if there are no multi-game events.

— Women’s teams can schedule 23 games and schedule one multiple-team event that includes up to four games. Or schedule 25 games, without an event with multiple teams.

— No exhibition games or closed scrimmages will be allowed.

— Teams will be considered eligible for the NCAA tournament if they play at least 13 games against Division I opponents — half the current requirement. The NCAA basketball committees also recommend that teams play at least four non-conference games.

— Beginning next Monday, Sept. 21, through Oct. 13, teams may participate in strength and conditioning activities, sport-related meetings and skill instruction for up to 12 hours a week. There will be an eight-hour limit on skill instruction and players must have two days off each week.

The Pac-12 last month announced that no sports would be played through the end of the 2020 calendar year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And although local health officials will have the final say on what teams are allowed to, things appear to be changing quickly.

The city of Berkeley currently is limiting Cal athletes to voluntary, outdoor workouts in cohorts of 12 or fewer.

But the path toward all of this happening became somewhat less cluttered Wednesday. First, the governors of California and Oregon — states that account for half of the Pac-12’s schools — lifted COVID-19 restrictions that would prevent teams from practicing.

“The Pac-12 welcomes today’s statements … that state health officials will allow for contact practice and return to competition and that there are no state restrictions on our ability to play sports in light of our adherence to strict health and safety protocols and stringent testing requirements,” the conference said Wednesday.

“Our California and Oregon universities will now each individually reach out to their relevant county public health officials to achieve clarification on what is required to receive the same clearance to resume contact practice and competition.”

Then, the athletic directors at USC and UCLA joined forces in a Zoom call with Los Angeles County health officials, who gave the green light to full 11-on-11 of football practices, the Mercury News reported.

The expected arrival of rapid-response antigen testing by the end of this month, a system that will allow daily testing, has changed the equation.

Pac-12 presidents are scheduled to meet on Friday, when they are expected to consider and likely vote on return-to-play scenarios.

Pac-12 men’s basketball teams were scheduled to play a 20-game conference schedule this season for the first time, but that could be under review at this point.

Originally, the college basketball season was set to begin on Nov. 10. When it became clear that the COVID-19 pandemic would alter the sports timetable, a start date of Nov. 21 was recommended by the NCAA’s men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees.

The Division I Council, which has final say on matters, is scheduled to meet next on Oct. 13, when the start date could be adjusted, depending on the state of the pandemic.

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Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo

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