Everything you need to know about the 2020-2021 NCAAB season

Profile Picture: Ashley Anderson

November 23rd, 2020

College basketball will return Wednesday, after an eight-month hiatus, which all started with the unprecedented cancellation of the NCAA Tournament.

The upcoming season will look far different from any in recent memory, as the country continues to battle a global pandemic. New protocols and guidelines have been set, in an attempt to complete the 2020-2021 season as safely as possible, while March Madness will undergo a transformation.

Here is everything you need to know about the 2020-2021 college basketball season, including key dates, the top-ranked teams, the new NCAA Tournament format, and COVID-19 protocols.

When does college basketball start?

The men’s college basketball season will kick off Wednesday, Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving. Nov. 10 was the original start date, but it was pushed back because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both the men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees proposed a Nov. 21 start date, but the NCAA Division I Council voted on a later tip-off, in part because an estimated 76% of college campuses will have sent home their student bodies for the end of fall term or to study exclusively online by then.

The Nov. 25 start date will force the rescheduling of some non-conference games and multi-team events, such as the Maui Invitational, which was slated to begin Nov. 23.

Teams were permitted to begin preseason practice Oct. 14.

How many games will each team play in 2020-2021?

The season maximum on games has been reduced from 31 to 27.

A team can schedule 24 regular-season games and participate in one multi-team event that includes up to three games, or it can schedule 25 regular-season games and one multi-team event that includes up to two games.

If a team does not compete in a multi-team event, it can schedule 25 regular-season games.  

It is recommended to play a minimum of four non-conference games.

Who are the top-ranked teams?

AP rankingTeam
Michigan State
Texas Tech
West Virginia
North Carolina
Arizona State
Florida State
Ohio State

For the first time in school history, Gonzaga will enter the season as the preseason No. 1 team in the country. Last season, Mark Few's Bulldogs finished the year 31-2 and would have likely earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Baylor comes in at No. 2, a year after it earned a 26-4 record and finished second in the Big 12. No. 6 Kansas led the conference with a 17-1 record and finished 28-3 overall. The Jayhawks closed out the 2019-2020 season ranked first in the AP poll but now sit sixth, after they lost top scorers Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike to the NBA.

No. 4 Virginia will head into the season as the reigning national champion, since no new champion was named last season.

Will any teams sit out the season?

Last week, the Ivy League announced it would not play winter sports.

Bethune-Cookman of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) will also skip the upcoming season.

Will fans be allowed to attend games?

State-by-state COVID-19 guidelines will dictate teams’ abilities to host fans. However, some teams, like Duke and Maryland, already announced they will prohibit fan attendance.

It is expected that attendance will be severely limited, if not altogether banned, during most college basketball games this winter.

What COVID-19 protocols will NCAA basketball follow?

College basketball will be the first major indoor sport in the country to attempt to play without any type of bubble environment, like the ones employed by the NBA, WNBA, and NHL.

The NCAA has suggested that teams, as well as officials, test for COVID-19 three times per week on non-consecutive days throughout the season. The organization also called for student-athletes and essential personnel to appropriately distance themselves during games.

During an interview in late October, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams said his team would move chairs apart on the sideline, so players can space out. He and his staff will also wear masks during games.

COVID-19 has already forced the cancellation of one marquee college basketball matchup. Because of a number of cases on Florida's basketball team, the Gators' Nov. 27 meeting with Virginia was called off.

The game was booked at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut (nicknamed "Bubbleville"), where 45 men's and women's college basketball games were scheduled to take place over an 11-day span. 

Florida's game with UMass-Lowell at Mohegan Sun on Wednesday was also cancelled.

Nearly 40 college basketball programs have suspended activities just three days before the season kickoff because of COVID-19 issues.

What will the NCAA Tournament look like in 2021?

This season's NCAA Tournament will be held in one location. 

The NCAA is currently looking at Indianapolis, and the surrounding metro area, as the exclusive site for March Madness.

The tournament will still have a 68-team format.

Selection Sunday is scheduled for March 14, with the First Four to be played March 16-17. The first round will tentatively occur March 18-19.

The Final Four is still set for April 3, and the National Championship Game is planned for April 5. 

Find the latest NCAAB odds at BetAmerica!