Moving the start of the 2018-19 men’s college basketball season to a Tuesday, off a Friday, wasn’t just about getting away from a busy football weekend.
The sport desperately needed more days to squeeze in the season prior to New Year’s.
The new start date was approved during the NCAA convention in Indianapolis this week. And it will be welcomed by coaches, athletic directors and conference schedulers.
The season had been so compressed that jamming in high-profile non-conference games, tournaments and challenge games like the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, and now conference games — especially in the soon-to-be 20-game conference seasons in the Big Ten next season and the ACC in 2019-20 was proving untenable. Will three days matter? Sure. The spacing of the games and the allowing of practice days will be embraced.
To get those three days back for the players, in the power conferences or autonomous conferences, are voting Friday to give a mandatory three days off in December around the holidays as part of a package on time demands for student-athletes. This would give players time to go home and see their families. The days could be any consecutive days at the discretion of each school (for example, Dec. 21, 22, 23 or 23-24-25). The days off will likely be determined by the scheduling around the holidays or if a team is in a tournament. The other 27 conferences don’t have to adopt the policy once approved by the power conferences, but they likely would to avoid a different set of rules.
Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior Vice President in charge of basketball, said there was a reason the NBA also starts its season on a Tuesday — to avoid a busy fall football weekend (in the NBA’s case it’s October while for the NCAA it’s November).
Mark your calendars! Basketball starts even earlier next season! pic.twitter.com/DAwkIgo8xw
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) January 17, 2018
“It was getting lost on the weekend,’’ said Gavitt. Television windows were hard to come by on the weekend with college football and the NFL. That won’t be an issue on Tuesday. ESPN announced that the Champions Classic will tip off the season on Tuesday, Nov. 6 in Indianapolis with Duke playing Kentucky and Michigan State taking on Kansas. Ohio State has already committed to opening at Cincinnati in its refurbished arena, likely on Nov. 7, the day after the Champions Classic. Other schools will likely look for splashy debuts.
“The start of the season had become so compressed with the holidays and exams that the additional three days allows schools to better schedule the start of the season and it’s the benefit for the student athletes and coaches,’’ Gavitt said.
Can’t wait to celebrate the start of the 2018 basketball season with @dukebasketball , @KentuckyMBB, @KUHoops , and @MSU_Basketball in the Champions Classic in Indy. Even better? Basketball season starts a week earlier on November 6! pic.twitter.com/PEtxjzVpuX
— Champions Classic (@championclassic) January 17, 2018
Gavitt said the season can start with a bang Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before football takes over.
“It’s not just television windows,’’ Gavitt said. “A lot of schools can’t host games on Saturday and Sunday if they have a home football games. We should get more compelling, interesting matchups during the first week.’’
Andy Katz is an NCAA.com correspondent. Katz worked at ESPN for 18 years as a college basketball reporter, host and anchor. Katz has covered every Final Four since 1992, and the sport since 1986 as a freshman at Wisconsin. He is a former president of the United States Basketball Writers Association. Follow him on Twitter at @theandykatz.
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