College basketball tips-off under uncertain circumstances

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College basketball tipped off Wednesday, November 25th under a cloud of uncertainty. The rising Covid-19 cases have taken a toll on the country and could jeopardize the upcoming season. Iona coach Rick Pitino has said that he wants the season to be pushed back so a vaccine can be administered to lower cases. 

“I’ll say it again, to anyone who will listen, push the season back to March, and then have May Madness. Give the vaccine a chance. In the best interest of all involved,” he said via twitter.

Pitino has the best interest of the players at heart but it doesn’t seem like the season will be delayed. The 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament generated a total of $933 million. The pandemic has crippled many universities as some have cut different sports in an effort to save money. 

Teams have dropped out of pre-season tournaments due to Covid issues inside their programs. Baylor head coach Scott Drew recently tested positive for Coronavirus and the school announced they would not participate in the 2020 Empire Classic in New York City. The Utah Utes canceled their opening game against the University of New Orleans as multiple players, including head coach Larry Krystkowiak tested positive for Covid and the IVY League canceled all fall sports. 

Even Florida had to pause basketball activities as they experienced an outbreak in their program. This resulted in the cancellation of a game between them and Virginia. Tennessee their conference rival also paused activities as head coach Rick Barnes tested positive for the virus. 

With the number of cases increasing and teams delaying or canceling openers, Pitino’s argument for delaying the season becomes more practical. Delaying the season and playing a conference only schedule could work, but the NCAA seems unwilling to delay the start of the season. The NCAA is in talks with the city of Indianapolis to hold the entire tournament there so why not push back the tournament to? 

It comes down to money. 

The NCAA has lost a lot of money already as the football season has been derailed and college basketball is one of their big money makers. Pushing back the season and tournament could cause a bigger financial loss compared to playing the season as scheduled. It is going to be an intriguing season as some teams could play more games than others, which could make it interesting during tournament selection time.

The College Football Playoff committee said there is no minimum game requirement to be eligible for the playoff, so the same rules could apply for the NCAA Tournament. 

The only thing certain is that the season has begun and what comes after is unknown.

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