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Salukis could lose Puerto Rico trip after NCAA pushes start date
College Basketball

Salukis could lose Puerto Rico trip after NCAA pushes start date

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CARBONDALE — The SIU men's basketball team's first voyage to Puerto Rico since 1999 may have to wait.

The NCAA Division I Council approved a modified men's and women's basketball schedule for the 2020-21 school year on Wednesday, moving the start date back from Nov. 10 to the day before Thanksgiving, Nov. 25. The Salukis were scheduled to play Hofstra, Air Force and Florida Atlantic between Nov. 20-22 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but will now miss out south unless the tournament moves.

Several multi-team events (MTEs) are reportedly moving to Orlando, but the Puerto Rico event is not listed as one of them. It is not clear if the Salukis will pursue another MTE, as Division I men's teams will only be allowed to play up to 27 games during the regular season, four less than usual. The Missouri Valley Conference's 18-game schedule is expected to make up the majority of that. To be eligible for the NCAA Tournament, teams must play at least 13 games against Division I opponents, including a minimum of four non-conference games. 

Teams can't play any exhibition games or closed scrimmages leading up to their opener.

"The new season start date near the Thanksgiving holiday provides the optimal opportunity to successfully launch the basketball season" NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said in a statement from the association Wednesday. "It is a grand compromise of sorts and a unified approach that focuses on the health and safety of student-athletes competing towards the 2021 Division I basketball championships."

Division I men's teams can play 24 regular-season games with one MTE up to three games, 25 games with a two-game MTE, or 25 games without an MTE. SIU currently has contracts with seven non-conference opponents, Tulsa (on the road Nov. 28), Southeast Missouri State (on the road Dec. 2), Southern Mississippi (Dec. 5), Murray State (Dec. 11), San Francisco (on the road Dec. 15) and Eastern Washington (Dec. 19). The Salukis have an agreement with Saint Louis to return a game from last season, but have not settled on a date.  

The SIU women's team can play 25 regular-season games or 23 games plus one MTE, which can include up to four games. 

The NCAA moved the start date back in order to give teams their best chance to compete without as many students on their campuses. SIU, for example, is planning to move some of its classes online after the Thanksgiving break. The association said at least three-quarters of Division I schools will have completed their fall terms or moved classes and final exams online. 

Things will start ramping up for the upcoming season as soon as Monday. For just over three weeks (Sept. 21-Oct. 13), teams may participate in strength and conditioning, meetings and skill instruction up to 12 hours a week. Up to eight of the 12 hours can be skill instruction. Programs can begin practicing for the upcoming season Oct. 14, working out up to 20 hours a week, four hours a day, with at least one day off a week. Teams get 42 days to get their 30 practices in.

todd.hefferman@thesouthern.com

618-351-5087

On Twitter: @THefferman

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