Division I college basketball is back, and major COVID-19 restrictions have been put in place for player and team safety. Despite these restrictions, the games have still brought excitement, especially this week, with major teams suffering unexpected losses.
The start of the basketball season came with several new regulations, including bench spacing and social distancing, and most notably, the absence of fans. Tournament sizes were limited to reduce the risk of spread. The NCAA also stated that there would be no scrimmages or exhibition games and that the number of contests would be limited to four.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, game cancellations are likely to occur due to staff or players testing positive for the virus. Many analysts are predicting last-minute cancellations and schedule shifting. The effects of these cancellations are already taking place, leaving teams little time to practice or scout players for upcoming games. Some teams, such as Florida State and Northwestern, have yet to play due to these cancellations.
However, the start of the season also provided much-needed excitement, with top-performing teams such as Notre Dame and Kentucky suffering surprise losses from Kentucky and Michigan State respectively. San Francisco secured an unexpected win over UVA.
Michigan State, currently ranked eighth, also secured a win over Duke at Cameron Indoor, which is a feat that the school’s coach, Tom Izzo, has never achieved in his career.
Maryland had a good start to the season, beginning with three straight wins for the seventh consecutive season. Virginia Tech saw an unexpected win over Villanova in overtime, and Gonzaga performed exceptionally well with wins over the Jayhawks and Auburn.
However, the start of the season has also been rough for some teams. Northern Iowa started the season off with a 0-3 record, with losses to teams such as Western Kentucky and Utah State. Georgia Tech suffered a 0-2 record in the starting season with losses to rivals Georgia State and Mercer. Georgetown University suffered an unexpected loss to Navy— their first in 43 years.
With more games scheduled for the next few weeks, fans should look forward to Gonzaga vs. Baylor and North Carolina vs. Iowa State.
Many critics have labeled the move to resume college basketball as hasty. ESPN analyst Dick Vitale stated: “It’s just chaos, but I want to make it clear that what we’re dealing with in basketball has absolutely no comparison to those suffering from COVID, to the people on ventilators, to the people dying.”
Coaches have also expressed concerns about starting the season.
“We’re just plowing through this,” Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski stated.
Guilford students were asked how they felt about college basketball returning. Many expressed similar concerns.
“Even though many are excited about the season beginning, the NCAA should reconsider their decision to allow for college basketball to resume,” said sophomore Sam Gilmore.
It remains to be seen whether or not tournaments and games will operate smoothly, and how cancellations and other factors will affect teams competing this season.