It has been a slightly disappointing, unpleasant year for college basketball fans. After what happened with March Madness, things seem to have only gotten worse. The looming threat of the Coronavirus has deeply affected most teams, and many questions remain unanswered.
Most of the concerns are unfortunately justified, especially given some recent developments. There is a lot of uncertainty in the air regarding how things might go later this month. Are we witnessing a ray of hope after months of rain, or is the biggest letdown still to come? How will this affect platforms such as an Online Sportsbook?
Before anyone can answer those questions, let’s examine some recent events and decisions regarding the NCAA this month.
Current Protocols and Recommendations
The effect of the virus on an individual team is hard to prepare for in advance. Preparations for the new starting date are well underway, but there’s no telling what could go wrong for many teams.
The NCAA’s guidelines make things perfectly clear. Schools should seriously consider quarantining an entire team if a Tier 1 individual tests positive for COVID-19. This does not only apply to players– coaching staff and any personnel essential enough to be deemed “Tier 1” should be quarantined as well.
Teams are already scrambling to select all their Tier 1 individuals. As per the guidelines, weekly Coronavirus testing is being replaced by a routine that involves three tests per week, at least for priority individuals. Once a case is confirmed, the staff must perform what is known as contact tracing. However, not every team has had it easy when determining who the infected person was in contact with.
Affected Teams and Events
The number of affected programs seems to rise by the week. Marquette recently decided to shut down operations for two weeks following a single confirmed infection. Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are now off the court. Other affected programs include Illinois State (with eight players in quarantine while the rest practice), Charlotte, Fordham, Duquesne, Villanova, etc.
Orlando recently saw the cancellation of multiple tournaments and team events staged by ESPN. The quoted reasoning was a series of “differences” between the schools and the network itself regarding Coronavirus safety protocols. Over twenty teams were affected by this decision, with programs losing many games in the process.
The adverse effects of the quarantine on the players and staff are visible to many and frequently discussed in interviews. The most obvious downside is, of course, the lack of direct practice. On top of the required 14-day quarantine, teams need a full week of preparation and practice before playing in a match.
Team morale can also quickly plummet when the players spend extended time in quarantine and are unable to play. As the potential November start approaches over the horizon, training is more important than ever. There is no doubt that the health and safety guidelines are causing stress for everyone involved.
The need for social distancing seems to also increase the players’ desire to get on the court and interact. Coaches are doing everything in their power to improve morale and arrange mental training through various means. It’s a delicate balance between keeping the players safe and making sure they get as many productive training hours as possible.
Potential Solutions and Changes
More and more ideas on how to guarantee an exciting season are surfacing. Many figures in college basketball and, perhaps more importantly, medical experts share the opinion that an in-bubble approach to tournaments can yield the best results.
Of course, this line of thinking assumes the schools can finance such a maneuver, but it could bring the fans everything they’ve been craving. According to Jay Wright, however, getting entire teams into a bubble is no easy task. Mohegan Sun Arena is a likely candidate for one such bubble, and various other names are popping up in conversations behind the scenes.
With how many games a quarantine procedure tends to lose (around four per team), the risk of schedule disruption is very high. In order to avoid having a messy schedule during the first two months of next year, several figures have recommended a focus on conference-only schedules.
The more non-league matches we eliminate from the schedule, the more breathing room teams may have to play games they missed due to quarantine protocols. The goal in this scenario would be to come as close as possible to a regular, complete season without playing unnecessary games that would slow everything down.
Things may look shaky from the outside, but the conferences and teams involved are doing everything in their power to bring you the most exciting games possible. From thorough health and safety procedures to innovative staging solutions, things are looking more promising than before.
Keep an eye out for more news on the topic because there might be various changes in the overall schedule. Rest assured, however, that nothing will stop them from giving you the entertainment you deserve.