UMass athletic director says Wednesday could be when a start date for college basketball is determined

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Wednesday could be a big day in the world of college basketball. It is expected that the NCAA is going to announce when the first games for the 2020-21 season could be scheduled.

"We're hearing that the start date to be voted on is Nov. 21," said University of Massachusetts athletic director Ryan Bamford. "That's what all indications are that's what the vote will be taken on. I don't know where the vote will land, although I have a feeling the season will get moved back, probably to that date."

The NCAA Division I Council is scheduled to meet on Wednesday. Jeff Goodman of Stadium first reported that the Council would be voting to approve Nov. 21 as the date the first games for Division I basketball could be played.

"[That] means we'll have to reduce our entire regular-season, non-conference opportunities," Bamford said Monday afternoon in an interview with The Eagle. "We'll probably go from 13 to somewhere in the neighborhood of seven or eight from that point, through the beginning of the [Atlantic 10 Conference] schedule, which is Dec. 30."

It had been reported earlier that the D-I Council had looked at Nov. 25 as the first day of the 20-21 season. Nov. 21 is the Saturday before Thanksgiving, while Nov. 25 would have been the day before Thanksgiving.

That would be a far cry from last year's schedule, which started for the Minutemen on Nov. 5, when UMass-Lowell visited Amherst. Using last year's schedule as a thumbnail for this year, UMass played five games between Nov. 5 and Nov. 20.

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UMass had already lost two regular-season, non-conference games because the Ivy League won't play any winter sports until at least Jan. 1, 2021. That means non-conference games against Yale and Harvard will either not be played, or will be squeezed into the 2021 portion of the UMass Atlantic 10 schedule.

"From a basketball standpoint, we have the shell from a calendar standpoint, if the date goes back, we've protected at least six games in that window with the opportunity to maybe play a couple of more," the UMass athletic director said. "The goal is to try to get to the max. I'm going to tell you, if we can just play games in the next nine months, any games, I'm happy."

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The conference has not announced its schedule for the coming season. UMass will, however, play home-and-away games against Fordham, George Mason, LaSalle, Rhode Island and Saint Louis. The Minutemen will also host Davidson, Dayton, Richmond and St. Bonaventure.

"I think we're going to wait and see what the basketball news is, and then determine how it impacts each of us on our campuses," Bamford said, "and our ability to roll up games sometime at or around the 21st of November, if that's the date."

UMass' hockey team, meanwhile, could also be looking at a limited season.

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Hockey East announced back on July 29 that it intends to play this season, but with an emphasis on conference play. He said non-conference hockey games are definitely up in the air.

"I think those are more likely to not happen than to happen," Bamford said. "There are only eight of those, so I don't think there's a real push to play those."

One advantage of playing strictly in conference is that Hockey East rival Maine is only a five-hour drive from the Mullins Center, while Vermont is only a three-hour drive.

"We've had a number of conversations as the league. We're advantaged by the fact that we're a bus league. We can play a lot of games day of and travel day of," Bamford said. "I think we're focused, really, intently focused on just playing Hockey East games, or at least focused on getting those games played and if we get any other games outside that, it's an advantage."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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