On the day the NCAA men’s basketball committee concluded its summer meetings — conducted virtually, of course — the Big Ten Conference announced its fall sports seasons would consist of conference games only. It is anticipated that most or all of the “autonomy conferences,” better known as the Power 5, will follow that course.
If that same circumstance were to develop in college basketball because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the selection committee would face a far more daunting predicament than deciding between two terrific teams for that final No. 1 seed.
NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt told Sporting News that scenario would present “pretty significant” challenges for the committee, including the possibility of “compromising the integrity” of the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET), the primary metric used to sort the teams and gauge accomplishment.
“You could imagine a scenario where some conferences play only conference games and others play conference and non-conference games,” Gavitt told SN. “We talked to Google, who helped us develop the NET, and have gotten their counsel on what effect that would have on the NET ranking system. And what they’ve told us back is if there are no non-conference games or dramatically fewer non-conference games, it would impact the effectiveness of the NET.
“That kind of cross-pollination is vital to the accuracy of the NET.”
Gavitt remains optimistic that if people are playing serious basketball in this country in 2020-21, then colleges will be among them. The return to action of various other sports leagues, most notably the NBA, Major League Baseball and, hopefully, college football will permit those in charge of college hoops to observe what works for them, what does not, and how to assure that the 2020 NCAA Tournament is the last the organization will need to cancel.
Gavitt acknowledges the progression (or, hopefully, eventually, regression) of the virus is a variable the NCAA and colleges do not control.
“We’ll continue to learn how to do things safely and responsibly,” Gavitt said. “We’ve got a ton of questions. We’ve got more questions than answers. But we’re starting to get answers. I think our staff and the committee are really doing a good job and focused on how we make this thing happen.
“I think everyone is still hopeful and planning the season will start on time, on Nov. 10, and we’ll be able to have a relatively full regular season. If things develop differently, I think we’ll be able to adjust, be flexible and be nimble and do what we have to, to try to create a different alternative.”
Gavitt said he believes there is a strong connection between launching basketball season on schedule and football being able to safely contest its regular season.
“The distinction in basketball, of course, is we have a lot of leagues that don’t play football,” Gavitt said. “And so they may be ready to start the regular season on Nov. 10, whereas other leagues might not, or might not want to. It’s an unusual circumstance, for sure. That’s not what’s happening right now. Right now, the overwhelming feeling is we’ll start the season on time.”
Asked whether the NCAA would be willing or able to push the NCAA Tournament out of its typical March Madness window into April or May if the circumstances with the virus made that appear prudent, Gavitt said that’s not a consideration at the moment.
“But we’re going to continue to evaluate and assess what’s going on in our country and would be prepared with any potential scenario, if necessary,” Gavitt said. “But we’re not there yet. Our contingency planning right now is around social distancing and limited capacity and all the things every sports property is having to plan for.
“We’re eight months away, still, from Selection Sunday. So it really is premature to think about dramatic alternations.”
It’s only four months away from the scheduled start of the season, though, and fall sports have been affected in dramatic ways.
If college basketball were to be placed in a circumstance where there were few or no non-league games to help establish how much comparative value there is in winning a conference game, Gavitt said he believes the selection committee is well-positioned to select, seed and bracket the field. Nine of the 10 members, including chairman Mitch Barnhart of Kentucky, are veterans of the process.
“If they’re faced with having to rely more on observation and less on analytics, they’ll be prepared to do so,” Gavitt said. “But it would be a challenge. There’s no question.”
Published at Fri, 10 Jul 2020 15:27:43 +0000