The plan is to still have non-league games this college basketball season -- and that'll likely remain the plan unless this getting-worse-by-the-day pandemic makes it something close to impossible. But, that said, news on Monday that ESPN is pulling the plug on the NBA-like bubble it was creating to host multi-team events next month at Walt Disney World served as a reminder that the commissioners largely in charge of trying to get this upcoming season from Point A to Point B really complicated things when they declined to significantly scale back and just commit to conference-only schedules.
This is not a new opinion.
More than two months ago, I wrote that the goal in these uncertain times should be not to replicate anything close to a normal season or even create a fair environment. Instead, the goal should be to devise the simplest plan possible to start and complete a season that culminates with the 2021 NCAA Tournament. And, undeniably, the simplest way to do that would've been with conference-only schedules.
My initial idea was to start in January with conference-only schedules played inside controlled environments -- but I made it clear I could be flexible on the details. So if the NCAA would rather start November 25, and if the leagues would rather try to play outside of bubbles like college football is currently doing, fine. It's not what I would do, but fine. Either way, conference-only schedules still make the most sense because A) they would allow everybody within a league to agree on testing protocols up front and be held to the exact same standards, and B) they would provide a bigger window to play a smaller number of games, which is something we've learned from baseball and football is beneficial, if not necessary.
To be clear, I'm excited about the possibility of Gonzaga-Baylor.
And Michigan State-Duke.