Welcome to the long-awaited official start of college basketball season today.
Well, some places, anyway.
Just 257 days after the NCAA pulled the plug in March on the 2019-20 season due to the onset of COVID-19, 330-plus Division I schools are pledging to give it the old college try to begin anew over the coming days, the pandemic willing.
Never mind that the Center for Disease Control is advising folks not to travel due to the surge in COVID-19 cases or that before they even tip-off, basketball games are already joining college football games as being canceled right and left. Schools are vowing to dribble on so that the NCAA Tournament and the checks it writes may continue.
Seven of the 11 members who make up the Big West Conference the University of Hawaii calls home have games scheduled over the coming days, according to the conference. Some of the more ambitious among them are — fingers tightly crossed — hoping to play as many as seven nonconference games before the 20-game league schedule opens Dec. 27.
The Rainbow Warriors, without any announced nonconference bookings at the moment, are not one of them.
A spokesman said on Tuesday that the ’Bows were still at work on some possible games and hope to announce something this week. The goal is said to be a mixture of some Division I and D-II opponents in advance of UH’s Dec. 27 conference opener with Cal Poly.
UH has been in talks with UH Hilo and Hawaii Pacific. Chaminade is not available due to several of its players heading home over the holidays, a spokesman said.
This year, more than ever before, the conference regular season takes on added meaning since it is anybody’s guess whether they will play the conference tournaments that decide the automatic berths to the NCAA Tournament.
And be assured there will be, whether it is in March, April or May, an NCAA Tournament because the NCAA and all the teams that feed at its trough cannot afford to let millions of dollars slip away again this season. Last season schools lost out on $375 million due to the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament. This season the impact would be worse since the association’s reserves were depleted in trying to fill some of the financial gap from last season.
If squeezed by the pandemic, one-bid conferences such as the Big West may have to just designate their regular-season champion as NCAA representatives. That’s a scenario that puts a premium on getting in some nonconference games to be ready to roll at the start of league play where 20 games (18 of them counting toward the title) will be compacted into 11 weeks and an open date.
But while UC Davis can pick up its first three games against Division I opposition by busing just 200 miles round trip and Long Beach State need not go beyond 30 miles to play either UCLA or Loyola Marymount, UH’s options are significantly complicated by geography.
The holiday season that once gave UH an edge in scheduling has now become a pandemic-era hurdle with teams reluctant to get on planes and a shuttered Diamond Head Classic.
So, basketball season is finally here, some places and for some games. But who knows how many and for how long?
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 529-4820.