The only thing that is currently certain in the world at this very moment is that everything about the future is completely uncertain. As it stands right now, the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of slowing down as everyone tries to figure out how to properly get ahead of the disease and begin to bring life back to a bit of normalcy.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the administrations of the major sports leagues across America. MLB is poised to start in a month. The NBA proposed a season with the players locked in Disney World, an idea that doesn’t look as appetizing with the pandemic numbers exploding in Florida.
The NCAA has to battle the uncertainty on two fronts. College football begins first, and as players have begun to trickle back, the tweets just keep coming out that make it seem absolutely impossible to hold a season in the first place.
College basketball has the benefit (???) of having a later start date. The Zags’ first game of the season is on Nov. 10. That is a long time between then and now. However, no one has any realistic idea of what the current state of the world will be at that point. The 2020-21 season is just going to be the largest question mark in history.
Today, noted MID MAJOR coach Rick Pitino lobbed this out into the Twittersphere, a potential solution that makes a whole lot of sense.
Suggestion to the NCAA, push the start of the season back to January and only play league games. Buy some more time for a vaccine and to get things under control. Although I can’t wait to be back on the sidelines, the health of my players and staff is what’s really important.— Rick Pitino (@RealPitino) July 1, 2020
The first thing I thought of when I read this tweet: Boy that solution is terrible for mid major schools everywhere, at Gonzaga.
The Zags are entering the season potentially ranked No. 1 for the first time in school history. They have a bevy of riches that could and should contend for a national championship. But, if the NCAA Selection Committee goes about its business as if it is normal, the Zags will set the record as the lowest-seeded team to ever win the national championship—if they get there.
The West Coast Conference was ranked as the eighth-strongest conference last season by Ken Pomeroy. The potential Quadrant 1 wins would essentially remain as road wins over BYU, Saint Mary’s, and potentially a fourth-school. For every mid major school out there, the way to make your case for March Madness is through your non-conference schedule. That is what Gonzaga has continued to do year after year and was primed to do it again this year, scheduling six Power 5 opponents, not including who they would meet in the Orlando Invitational.
How does a Selection Committee properly rank a Gonzaga squad that has not been able to test its mettle against the larger schools? Barring any change in the process (and let’s be honest here, change is not the forte of the NCAA), Pitino’s call will solely benefit those 9-11 Big 12 schools that “ground through the toughest conference.”
Of course, most of us would agree a season with basketball is better than one without basketball. Personally, the more preferably course would be, if basketball is determined to start in the start of 2021, start the entire season then. Try and salvage the neutral-scheduled games and the holiday tournaments and play as much of the season out as possible. Have March Madness become May Madness.
Considering we are in the brainstorming phase of the world at the moment, Pitino’s idea should not be automatically disqualified, but if should be implemented in a way that keeps the playing field level. For some reason, I feel like the NCAA will struggle at accomplishing that.