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NCAA college basketball season to begin Nov. 25; UM, MSU schedules in flux

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

While Division I college football has remained fractured in its plan to get back on the field, there is no such division when it comes to college hoops.

On Wednesday evening, the Division I Council voted to begin the 2020-21 college basketball season on Nov. 25 with practices to set to start on Oct. 14. That means a start date that comes the day before Thanksgiving and 15 days after the season was originally slated to begin before the COVID-19 pandemic continued to wreak havoc on professional and college sports.

On Wednesday evening, the Division I Council voted to begin the 2020-21 college basketball season on Nov. 25 with practices to set to start on Oct. 14.

“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 said in a statement. “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.”

There will be a maximum of 27 games with a minimum of 13, and a recommendation for a minimum of four nonconference games while exhibitions or scrimmages will not be permitted.

That breaks down to men’s teams being allowed to 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.

Much of Michigan State’s planned nonconference schedule was already known. The Spartans, as they do most seasons, were set to open things up at the Champions Classic, this year scheduled for Nov. 10 in Chicago against Duke. They were also slated to play in the Orlando Invitational from Nov. 24-27.

"I’m excited to know that we have a date to start our season and that’s a positive for college basketball," MSU coach Tom Izzo said. "It’s a bit of a later start than we’ve had in the past, but I think we have had time to look at things and that we will be able to put a schedule together that includes our great non-conference games and the Big Ten. 

"Things may be a bit different this year, but we will continue to follow all of the safety protocols that we have in place so that we can ensure a safe and healthy return to play.  This is a great day for players, coaches and fans of college basketball."

Along with another appearance against a Big East team in the Gavitt Games as well as the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge, that’s five nonconference games. Add in the semi-annual matchup with Oakland and that’s six games out of conference, four more than the minimum suggested, making one wonder how many more Michigan State would want to schedule. Of course, that likely would also depend on whether the Big Ten alters its conference schedule — currently at 20 games — for one season.

Michigan was reportedly set to open the season at home against Georgia State on Nov. 10, followed by road trips to Oregon — for a Nov. 14 matchup against the Ducks — and to New York — where Michigan would take part in the Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden with Baylor, N.C. State and Villanova on Nov. 19-20.

According to game contracts obtained by The Detroit News, the Wolverines have home games scheduled against Southern Utah (Nov. 27), Oakland (Dec. 21) and Ball State (Dec. 29). They also agreed to a home-and-home series with UCF in July that would start this season, but no matchup dates have been announced.

One of Michigan’s premier nonconference games — a matchup against Kentucky in London — has already been postponed until December 2022, delaying the start of a three-game series between the programs by a year.

When practice begins on Oct. 14, teams will have 42 days to conduct 30 practices. Players can work up to 20 hours per week, four hours per day with at least one day off each week. That model is consistent with a typical preseason period.

The Council also approved a transition practice period between current out-of-season activities and preseason practice. This transition period is designed to provide additional time for players to prepare for the upcoming season based on the mental and physical challenges basketball players are facing as a result of the pandemic. The transition period runs Sept. 21-Oct. 13, and teams may participate in strength and conditioning activities, sport-related meetings and skill instruction for up to 12 hours a week, with an eight-hour limit on skill instruction. Players must have two days off per week during the transition period.

Staff writer James Hawkins contributed.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau