Basketball: Cajun coaches think basketball will happen, but when?
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Aug. 19, 2020
Bob Marlin is confident the 2020-21 college basketball season will be played, in some form or fashion.
Garry Brodhead isn’t sure it will start on time, though.
For now, Marlin is planning on the season opening when his Ragin’ Cajun men are scheduled to visit Texas on Nov. 10.
But if that trip takes place, and what the season really winds up looking like, truly is anyone’s best guess, including the UL coach.
The uncertainty is all because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that according to Johns Hopkins University data has infected more than 21.8 million worldwide and killed more than 170,000 in the United States alone.
It also cost college basketball last season’s NCAA Tournament, and now has sports schedules this school year in a state of much uncertainty.
The Sun Belt Conference, to which UL belongs, plans to play football, at least for now.
The same can be said for basketball, though how many games get played is not yet known.
“I think we’ll have an NCAA Tournament (this season),” Marlin said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt.
“And it may be in a bubble-type format. But I’m convinced that basketball will play in the spring and we’ll pull off a successful tournament. I think they learned a lot from watching the NBA (play in a bubble) down in Orlando.”
A LATE START?
UL women’s coach Brodhead, however, isn’t convinced a full season will be played.
“This is just my opinion: I think we will start a little bit later,” Brodhead said Tuesday.
“You look at football, and you look at some of these conferences (like the SEC) just playing conference games; my feeling is that might be something we look at (for basketball).”
Brodhead’s Cajuns currently are scheduled to open their season Nov. 10 at Texas A&M.
“Will that happen? I’m not sure,” said Brodhead, whose club also is scheduled to play LSU in Baton Rouge, Houston, North Texas, McNeese, New Orleans and Southeastern Louisiana in non-conference play this season. “But I think it’s a good possibility we could play on Jan. 4 to start the conference (schedule), and I think that would be very doable.”
With the fall semester including a combination of in-person and online classes having opened Monday at UL, Marlin’s Cajun men are scheduled to resume workouts later this week and begin preseason practice in late September.
But the time frame for both practice and the start of the season could soon change.
“As we prepare for the 2020-21 college basketball season,” NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said in a statement released Monday, “we have exercised patience and discipline in monitoring the effects of COVID-19 and making decisions regarding the season.
“We have learned a great deal over the course of the summer, and with health and safety being our priority, we have developed and studied contingency plans for alternatives to the scheduled Nov. 10 start date.
“In the coming weeks,” Gavitt added, “the NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees will take the lead with me in a collaborative process of finalizing any recommendations for consideration by the NCAA Division I Council for the start of the college basketball season.”
Gavitt also said that teams will be provided “by mid-September” with “direction about whether the season and practice start on time or a short-term delay is necessitated by the ongoing pandemic.”
“We recognize that we are living and operating in an uncertain time, and it is likely that mid-September will be just the first milestone for many important decisions pertaining to the regular season and the NCAA basketball championships,” his statement continued.
“While circumstances may warrant flexibility resulting in a different and perhaps imperfect season,” Gavitt added, “the ultimate goal is to safely provide student-athletes and teams with a great college basketball experience.”
While the exact start date may be unknown for now, Marlin is convinced there will be an ending – unlike what happened late last season, when in mid-March the coronavirus crisis shut down many conference tournaments and ultimately the NCAA Tournament.
“I’m not too concerned about the NCAA Tournament,” Marlin said last week. “I feel very confident with what Dan Gavitt is saying.”
UL recently extended its deadline for season ticket renewals to Oct. 1.
Precisely what the season will look like, though, remains to be seen.
Already, some alterations have been made.
Marlin said the Cajuns will not play in a multiple-team event tournament like they typically do.
He also said they have picked up some non-NCAA Division I home games “just to fill out the schedule,” but it remains to be seen how many of those will be played because some lower levels of college baskeball won’t even be playing later this year.
“So it’s so up in the air right now,” Marlin said.
FOOTBALL HOLDS THE KEY
The Cajuns coach also said some in-state schools that “would make sense” have called and said they’d like to play if there is an opening on UL’s schedule, including some Southland Conference teams, “so that is a possibility.”
The bottom line for Marlin is that his biggest unexpected challenge because of coronavirus has become, he said, “just the unknown.”
When he spoke last April, Marlin said the Cajuns also had non-conference games scheduled against teams including Houston, Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech and the University of New Orleans.
Only time will tell if all, or even any, of those are played.
Until then, only college basketball coaches like Marlin can do is wait and see how play out for football in the fall, then go from there.
At UL, the Cajuns already lost non-conference football games against McNeese, Wyoming, New Mexico State and Missouri – but added one, currently their new season opener, on Sept. 12 at No. 25 Iowa State.
“As far as basketball,” Marlin said, “one positive that we do have is we have some time. We have a little more time.
“I’ve said this for a while. Of course, that window may be shrinking. But we’re gonna be able to see how college football starts. We’ll be able to see how the NFL starts.”
As Brodhead sees it, football really could impact the basketball bounces.
“If some positive things come out of football, the things they learn how to do (with) a lot of what’s going on,” he said, “I think it could (make a difference).
“I think each sport, in the situation we’re in, we’re learning from one another. It could be really positive if they could through it, and get through the whole (football) season without any problems. We can learn from some of the struggles they have, and try to get better at trying to protect the kids.”