Orange Watch: Syracuse basketball, ACC likely to compact schedule

Guerrier Duke
Feb. 1, 2020; Syracuse, NY, USA; Syracuse Orange forward Quincy Guerrier (1) celebrates a play against the Duke Blue Devils during a 97-88 loss. Mandatory Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: As has been proven with the NBA currently in its championship round in Orlando, and this past summer’s The Basketball Tournament in Columbus, Ohio, the advantage of single sites hosting multiple basketball games is a big proactive step in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. With properly enforced procedures, and the resistance of temptation, the so-called “controlled environments” provide an extra layer of protection and easier testing protocols among the participants and support staffs to allow the games to be played.

Forget the term, “on the bubble” referring to a team making the NCAA Tournament or not. The phrase now in vogue to the NCAA is “Battle in the Bubble.”

Even though it prefers the aforementioned description “controlled environments,” the NCAA began the legal process in late August to own the trademark “Battle in the Bubble” for all things involving the promotion of future events and merchandise sales.

The organization, which lost almost $1 billion in television rights fees minus last spring’s version of March Madness, can’t financially stay afloat with another cancelation. It forecasted the need to come up with a creative, alternative scheduling model because of pandemic restrictions that vary state-by-state, and the need for the 2021 NCAA Tournament to proceed as planned, even if the latter has to be scaled back from the current 68-team field, with 67 games set to be played at 14 pre-booked venues.

Preseason hoops practice can commence next Wednesday (October 14), with an announced November 25 start to the season, the night before Thanksgiving. Syracuse’s academic calendar sends students home that week with the semester ending remotely on December 9. The spring semester does not begin until January 19 – a five-week window in which no students will be on campus.

The NCAA has ruled a team can play a maximum of 27 games if it includes an early-season event, or 25 games if it doesn’t. Syracuse seemingly has 21 games already lined up; 20 in ACC play, plus the ACC-Big Ten challenge which could end up being played at a couple of controlled environments.

» Related: The complete guide to Syracuse basketball alumni in the NBA playoffs

The ACC would prefer the flexibility of having teams play three of the 20 conference games before January 1, allowing for rescheduling if needed. That would only leave a small opening post-Thanksgiving or early January for four non-league games to be contested in the Dome with most of those opponents close enough to bus rather than fly.

As for academics, with players taking their courses and exams virtually, it doesn’t matter if they are online in a controlled environment of a hotel room or in their own housing, making pods of games over several days at one site a more realistic option for the upcoming season.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.