NCAA D1 Council votes to start season on Nov. 25 with new paramaters affecting Hogs, College Basketball

Local Sports

By Kevin McPherson

LITTLE ROCK — When details emerged Wednesday afternoon from an NCAA Divison 1 Council meeting and vote to establish key dates and parameters for college basketball in 2020-21, effectively breathing life into a sport that was abruptly halted in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Arkansas Razorbacks were one of many programs to be given restored hope that months of practice and preparation will culminate in meaningful competition in the foreseeable future.

In anticipation of the Council’s vote the Hogs’ men’s basketball program released a brief video clip via Twitter earlier Wednesday with dramatic music in the background as second-year head coach Eric Musselman declared: “We’re gonna be ready.”

As expected, the Council’s vote indeed laid an unprecedented foundation for the upcoming season (according to reporting by CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander and ESPN’s Jeff Borzello) …

* The opening day of the ’20-21 season will be Nov. 25 (only 15 days later than the original start date that had been set for Nov. 10).

* Teams can play a maximum of 27 regular-season games (24-25 games plus an MTE event to cap out at 27 games, which is 4 fewer than the 31-game regular-season that had been the norm for years).

* Teams must play a minimum of 13 regular-season games to be eligible for postseason NCAA tournament play.

* Teams can start practicing as much as 12 hours per week starting Sept. 21 (which is Monday) — that’s 8 hours of on-court practice and 4 hours of strength-and-conditioning.

* Official season practices (20 hours a week) can begin on Oct. 14.

* No scrimmages against other opponents or exhibition games at all this season.

* The current, ongoing recruiting dead period — banning all on- and off-campus visits — has been extended to Jan. 1.

Although Arkansas never released its ’20-21 schedule in full, the program had previously acknowledged publicly several opponents and dates, and with the NCAA’s new guidance on playing games in the upcoming season it raises many questions as to which of the Razorbacks’ games will survive, which ones will be cancelled, and which ones will be moved to alternative dates and/or locations.

* The season-opener was to be on Nov. 10 against Oral Roberts at home at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, so it remains to be seen if this game will be rescheduled or altogether dropped.

* Arkansas had been scheduled to play in the MGM Resorts’ Main Event — a 4-team (Hogs, Louisville, San Francisco, Colorado State), 2-game tournament — slated for Nov. 20-22 at the T-Mobile Center in Las Vegas, so the question becomes will the event push out its start date to comply with the NCAA’s new Nov. 25 opening day for college basketball? For more details on the various plans for the Main Event, click the link to previous stories published at …

* As reported in mid-May, Arkansas is set to begin an annual multi-game series against Oklahoma at the BOK Center in Tulsa — beginning with a Dec. 12, 2020, matchup. Given Tulsa’s close geographic proximity to both Fayetteville and Norman, Okla., it would make sense that salvaging this game as part of the non-conference schedule would be practical.

* Arkansas also had plans to play a road game against the defending American Athletic Conference champion Tulsa Golden Hurricane, which would mean another short drive to Tulsa for the Hogs and their fans, although a date for the game was never announced. Will Arkansas and Tulsa work to keep this game as part of their ’20-21 non-conference schedules?

* The Hogs were planning to play Old Dominion in December at Simmons Bank Arena in North Little Rock — the annual game to reward central Arkansas fans — so it will be interesting to see if the program will endeavor to preserve this game.

* In theory, all or some of these confirmed three home games at BWA — Northern Illinois on Nov. 28, Lipscomb on Dec. 5, and Abilene Christian on Dec. 23 — could still be played. But will they?

* Arkansas was also expected to host Texas-Arlington, but a date was never announced. Another example of a game potentially on the chopping block.

* The Razorbacks once again had been selected to take part in the annual Big 12-SEC Challenge in late January, and the Hogs were expected to play that game on the road although an opponent had not been named. Will this event be scrapped for a season, or moved to a date prior to January? 

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