Updated: Better Late Than Never, NCAA Sets Nov. 25 Start for College Basketball Season

Tracy Ringolsby

College basketball was given a ray of hope this week.

While the Mountain West Conference continues to explore a possible late fall football schedule amid talks of the Pac-10 and Big 10 opting to begin play in mid-October after initially cancelling their seasons, the NCAA announced plans for the college basketball season.

The NCAA Division 1 Council came out of its Wednesday meeting with the recommendation for an amended basketball season. It would begin on Nov. 25 -- 15 days later the Wyoming originally was scheduled to open its season against Colorado Christian. The Cowboys also originally were scheduled to play Montana on Nov. 12.

"The new season start date near the Thanksgiving holiday provides the optimal opportunity to successfully launch the basketball season," NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the NCAA. "It is a grand compromise of sorts and a unified approach that focuses on the health and safety of student-athletes competing towards the 2021 Division I basketball championships."

Meanwhile, there were indications of a move forward by the Mountain West on an about face on the cancellation of football.

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 A key factor in the delayed starts for the basketball programs is the bulk of Division I schools, including Wyoming, will either have finished the fall semester or moved to on-line classes for the final weeks of the fall semester. That would minimize the risk of a COVID outbreak.

Under the revised plan for the season, men's teams playing in a winter tournament, such as the Nov. 27-30 Wyoming Basketball Classic that is scheduled to involve three teams in addition to the Cowboys, would be able to have a "24-game" schedule, with the tournament counting as one game. 

Teams not involved in a tournament would be allowed up to schedule 25 games.

Women's teams would be allowed 23 regular-season games if they are in a multi-team tournament or 25 games if they are not in a preseason tournament.

The Mountain West is considering going to a 20-game conference schedule, which would provide a home-and-home with each conference team. In recent years, the MW has played an 18-game conference schedule, which meant a single game at home against one conference member, and a single game on the road against another.

Between the 20-game conference schedule, and hosting the tournament, that would leave the Cowboys with room for three additional non-conference games in the 2020-21 season. The Casper Star-Tribune reported that the Cowboy are scheduled to host Jackson State on Dec. 1 and play at Utah Valley State on Dec. 12. They also are scheduled to play Duquesne in Laramie on Dec. 5 as part of the Mountain West-Atlantic 10 Challenge.

If the MW does adopt the 20-game conference schedule, the first two games would be schedule in late December. If it sticks with an 18-game conference schedule that would open two potential non-conference games.

The NCAA decision will not allow scrimmages or exhibition games, but will allow teams to open practice on Oct. 14 with a transition period beginning on Monday in which players can take part in strength and conditioning, meetings and sill instruction up to 12 hours a week until the start of practice.

That's a step ahead of MW football, which remains in limbo. 

The MW joined the Pac-12, Big 10 and Mid-America Conferences in initially cancelling their football seasons.

The Mountain West, however, is reevaluating that decision in light of the Big 10 announcement this week it will play an 8-game football schedule, and the Pac-12 receiving permission from elected officials to play games.

A hang up for the Mountain West is that conference presidents have indicated a need for rapid tests done multiple times a week, which is not available in many areas, including Wyoming.

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