COVID-19’s Impact on the 2020-21 College Basketball Season
by Rick Bouch Scores & Statson
Like most sports fans, you have probably kept up on the most current events revolving around your sport of choice during the COVID-19 pandemic. The NBA will soon be back and it appears as though the NFL and NCAA football seasons will begin as planned.
Lost in the shuffle is college basketball.
If you recall, sports’ lovers were salivating at the thought of a 2020 March Madness just as the coronavirus put its death grip on sports around the globe. College sports’ governing body cancelled the NCAA tournament and all winter and spring sports championships.
But, what about 2020-21? The news is filled with college football’s return to summer workouts. What’s going on with college basketball?
Summer School Calendar
The NCAA Division I Council just recently approved its plans for men’s and women’s basketball this summer.
At this moment similar to college football, student-athletes that play Division I men’s or women’s college basketball can participate in voluntary activities as well as virtual non-physical activities from now until the end of June.
The council is likely to approve “enhanced in-person non-physical activities” (that would be NCAA-ese for things like team meetings and film review sessions) to begin on July 1. From July 1 through 19, all voluntary activities may continue. Those activities include strength and conditioning sessions.
Beginning on July 20, all Division I teams may being mandatory athletic activities.
These activities can last for up to eight weeks until the school’s first day of classes or September 15, whichever comes first.
During this period, strength and conditioning and skill sessions cannot exceed eight hours per week. The skill sessions are limited to four hours a week.
After September 15, schools can begin out-of-season workouts, which is essentially what they will be doing the remainder of the summer. Like college football teams, basketball student-athletes spend most of their summer working on their game. The late start could have an impact on skill development.
Recruiting: The Bigger Impact
Where we will see the greatest impact from the coronavirus on college basketball is in recruiting.
By mid-March, most high schools had shut down all of their winter and spring sports. In Michigan, for example, play was stopped in the high school state basketball tournaments and champions were never crowned.
Around the same time frame, the NCAA decided to prohibit all in-person recruiting until May 31. With all the coronavirus shutdowns across the country, the usual travel team tournaments and AAU play that occurs in the spring and early summer didn’t take place.
Look at Ja Morant
The results, as we will continue to see, could be similar to what happened to Ja Morant, now of the Memphis Grizzlies. Morant, who will challenge Zion Williamson for this year’s NBA Rookie of the Year award, was overlooked in high school because he didn’t have the opportunity to play in some of these big-time tournaments.
Morant wound up at Murray State where he would play two seasons before going No. 2 in last year’s draft.
The same thing is happening to players like Ladarron Cleveland, a prospect from Florida. Cleveland is not one of the top recruits in his class, but he is an outstanding athlete who can shoot. He’s only six-feet tall, but he was Sanford Seminole HS’s leading scorer with 16.1 points per game on a team that went 27-2 and played for a state championship.
The problem for Cleveland is that he lost out on the chance to wow scouts on the offseason circuit. As a result, Cleveland signed with NAIA Florida College so he wouldn’t miss out on an opportunity.
The end result will not only be players like Cleveland missing out on playing Division I basketball, but also on Division I teams that miss out on acquiring recruits that could help them win championships.
Without the opportunity to see many of these prospects in person, college coaches like Kentucky’s John Calipari will not pull the trigger and offer a scholarship.
2020 NCAAB sleepers on the fringe of greatness like Creighton (+1100), Florida State (+1500), and San Diego State (+1600) could improve their chances of capturing the 2021 NCAA tournament with the help of a recruit or two.
Likewise, their chances of winning March Madness could fall because they missed out on a key prospect.
A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.
His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.
When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.