UA training camp notebook: Off-court news dominates wk 9, incl ’20-21 start date

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Photo Courtesy: University of Arkansas Athletics

LITTLE ROCK — It’s been 9 weeks since the start of the Arkansas Razorbacks’ basketball training camp (which began July 20), and it was off-the-court news that broke during the week affecting the Hogs and all of college basketball as new dates and parameters shaping the 2020-21 season came more into focus following a six-month pause due to the coronavirus pandemic.

* The NCAA Division 1 Council on Wednesday announced an unprecedented foundation for the upcoming season (detailed in more depth here in my story published on Wednesday … …

   — The opening day of the ’20-21 season will be Nov. 25 (only 15 days later than the original start date that had been set for Nov. 10).

   — Teams can play a maximum of 27 regular-season games (24-25 games plus an MTE event to cap out at 27 games, which is 4 fewer than the 31-game regular-season that had
   been the norm for years).

   — Teams must play a minimum of 13 regular-season games to be eligible for postseason NCAA tournament play.

   — Teams can start practicing as much as 12 hours per week starting Sept. 21 (which is Monday) — that’s 8 hours of on-court practice and 4 hours of strength-and-conditioning.

   — Official season practices (20 hours a week) can begin on Oct. 14.

   — No scrimmages against other opponents or exhibition games at all this season.

   — The current, ongoing recruiting dead period — banning all on- and off-campus visits — has been extended to Jan. 1.

No counting (on) Cards in Vegas?! CBS Sports college basketball analyst Jon Rothstein on Friday reported source information that “Louisville will not participate in the 2020 MGM Resorts Main Event in Last Vegas” — a 4-team, 2-game tournament format including the Cards, Arkansas, San Francisco, and Colorado State that was slated to be played Nov. 20-22 at T-Mobile Arena. Obviously, the Main Event organizers will need to look at moving the event to a start date of no sooner than Nov. 25, and now they may be looking at a high-major team to replace Louisville, although the Cardinals’ athletic department has not yet commented on the team’s intentions. Rothstein also reported on Friday that Main Event organizers are looking to expand the field for the event. Nonetheless, a source confirmed that Arkansas is exploring other MTE options (tournament exemption events offering two or more games) to ensure they can add as many games within the new guidelines as possible.

Additionally, Rothstein reported Friday that “the Big 12/SEC Challenge remains on schedule to be played in January 2021.” As we previously reported at, Arkansas has been invited to take part in Big 12 / SEC Challenge in ’20-21, and the Hogs are expected to play on the road in the event although an opponent has yet to be named.

Reality of college sports in era of pandemic. Given the landscape of college sports so far — mainly football, which kicked its season off in recent weeks — it’s obviously programs are dealing with the reality of the pandemic as teams have been forced to play short-handed or postpone / reschedule games.

Even with the NCAA’s specific guidance laid out on Wedneday regarding the start date of the season and other paramters, it still must, along with conferences, establish health-and-safety protocols to manage playing games amid the pandemic, protocols that will make scheduling more difficult than ever for college programs. Not only are there covid-19 testing, tracing, and quarantining measures to consider, but add in cardiac-testing as part of the process. That just scracthes the surface. Travel, lodging, venue preparation, and a whole lot more will go into determining the viability of playing games. It’s why establishing the 13-game minimum for qualifying for NCAA tourament eligibility is so important, because teams possibly if not likely will have to cancel games during the season.

According to a source, Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek on Thursday told the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees that the Razorbacks’ program (all sports) has had less than a 3% possitivity rate on more than 3,000 covid-19 tests completed on student-athletes, which works out to a total of less than 100 positive tests.

Meanwhile, head coach Eric Musselman while speaking to The Athletic for a story that was published earlier in the week said this about scuttling his plans to install Pat Riley’s 1-3-1 defensive scheme: “I was actually going to install it this upcoming week, but then I sort of self-scouted and realzied we just have too many new guys and too little time to teach something like that. With covid protocols, you might go to practice on Monday and two players are out because one tested positive and the other is his roomate. Or one guy plays miniature golf with a girl on the tennis team, she ends up having it, and now that guy and his four suitemates are all in quarantine, even though they might not ever actually test positive. Maybe it’s just one guy at a time, and you can manage if it’s just one guy, but if it’s one guy missing 14 days of practice, there’s no way you can put in a 1-3-1.”

Moral to the story as it relates to this ’20-21 Hog squad that has 10 newcomers among the 12 total on scholarship: The challenges of navigating the maze that is covid-19 makes Musselman’s job of preparing his team exponentially more difficult than under typical circumstances. That may seem obvious for all of college athletics, but combine a new roster with Musselman’s bag full of plays, schemes, and personnel packages — a pro level of preparation and planning that goes beyond what most college programs are doing — he’ll likely have to water down and simplify his gameplan for the season. For example, last season with a veteran team, the Hogs were able to implement 38 variations of baseline-out-of-bounds plays, but so far they’ve only been able to install two “BOB” plays, according to a source.

Mo’ one-and-done chatter for Moody! Freshman guard Moses Moody has seen his name pop up for weeks in various way-too-early 2021 NBA mock drafts, and the most-recent came on Monday when 247Sports’ analyst Kevin Flaherty projected Moody to be selected No. 19 overall (first round) in his 2021 NBA mock draft. Moody has had a strong training camp, and onlookers continue to marvel at the sharpshooter’s ability to crash the offensive glass for rebounds and putback dunks.

Let’s talk in-state scheduling. With so much uncertainty surrounding the how, when, and where teams will be able to schedule and play, don’t be surprised if Arkansas and other in-state schools begin dialogues on scheduling games for the upcoming season. With the idea that playing closer to home (which restricts travel and lodging needs) translates to a safer environment for players, coaches and staff, and fans, it makes sense that the Hogs would be looking at scheduling a game against one or more of Little Rock, Arkansas State, Central Arkansas, and Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Such games can be scheduled following the UA’s policy change last year that abolished a decades-long standard that prohibited scheduling in-state opponents, although the football program maintains restrictions on in-state scheduling.

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