Item: The college basketball season tips-off the night before Thanksgiving (Nov. 25), with Syracuse reportedly set to open at home against Bryant on Nov. 27. After last year’s abbreviated ACC Tournament due to the onslaught of the current pandemic, and with four and a half weeks before play begins, there’s still continued uncertainty surrounding the exact makeup of this year’s potential 27-game SU schedule.
The new term related to college basketball scheduling is MTE. That is the acronym for multiteam event, and it stands to reason that multiple teams gathering at one location to play a round-robin format, is going to be prevalent throughout the upcoming season. It may even end up being as widespread for conference games as it is for non-league matchups.
The NCAA last week announced teams could play in two MTEs to help with scheduling up to a maximum 27 games (24 games plus three in an MTE format), and added flexibility to the number of days of competition allowed in specific events in case of delays due to health and safety issues.
Already several non-conference November MTE’s have either been reconfigured and moved to different locales, such as the ambitious undertaking at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut involving some 35 teams over 11 days competing in different event pods, or canceled outright.
ESPN on Monday announced a reversal of its plans to host several early MTE’s at its Disney World Complex in Orlando, citing disagreements with some participating schools over the health and safety protocols, including exact COVID-19 testing procedures.
That’s what happens when you mix teams from different conferences, especially with a discrepancy in revenue available to some leagues versus others to use in providing uniform methods of protecting the well-being of the players, coaches and support staff.
Where does this leave Syracuse specifically and the ACC as a whole?
Besides the reported Bryant opener, SU also has the back end of a home-and-home series with Georgetown scheduled for a game at the Dome. Both the ACC and Big East are looking to go top-heavy with conference games in December, minus students on campus, so the Orange and Hoyas are looking at a Saturday in January (Jan. 2, 9, or 16) to renew their rivalry, although with the distinct possibility that no spectators will be at the game.
The ACC is planning for 20 conference games plus the Big Ten challenge series. SU is scheduled for a road game in the Big Ten event, so a meeting with any of the three closest schools geographically, Penn State, Rutgers or Maryland seemingly makes the most sense.
As of now, the ‘Cuse still needs four additional games to hit the 27 mark, all preferably at home, and three of those would have to be classified as an MTE in the Dome. To attract opponents to play multiple games in a condensed window, the focus would be alleviating the distance team’s travel to central New York (think bus trips).
If a team doesn’t play in an MTE, it can max out at 25 games on the schedule. Either way, realistically completing those 25 or 27 games over 14 weeks could end up being a challenge this season.
Fortuitously looking ahead, this season’s ACC Tournament is scheduled for March 9-13 in Washington, D.C. NCAA East region sites this year are Providence and Raleigh, with the regional in Brooklyn.