College basketball tips off, but COVID-19 cancels games, pauses programs

Nov. 25 (UPI) — More than 200 Division I men’s and women’s college basketball games are planned for Wednesday to tip off the 2020-2021 season, with thousands of athletes on courts around the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But not all games will go on.

The pandemic has impacted this year’s schedule, with games originally planned to start Nov. 10, but then delayed until Wednesday.

Dozens of men’s and women’s games and tournaments have been canceled or postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests for players and coaches at different programs.

Baylor, ranked No. 1 in the men’s basketball coaches poll, and No. 8 Duke are among the top teams that won’t take the floor Wednesday due to positive tests.

No. 3 Villanova, No. 4 Virginia, No. 6 Iowa, No. 7 Wisconsin, No. 9 Kentucky and No. 10 Illinois will start their seasons Wednesday. No. 2 Gonzaga will battle No. 5 Kansas on Thursday in their season opener.

Many college basketball programs will not allow fans to attend games this season as a coronavirus safety precaution, while other programs plan limited capacities.

Villanova, Gonzaga, Baylor and Iowa are among the favorites to win the 2021 men’s title on most sports betting websites. Kentucky, Virginia, Kansas, Duke, Illinois and Wisconsin also are among the programs expected to contend.

Wednesday’s games will air on ESPN platforms, FS1, FS2, CBSN, and a variety of conference-owned networks.

East Tennessee State will take on Abilene Christian in the first men’s matchup of the day, at 11 a.m. EST. The first broadcast matchup will features Florida College against South Florida and air at 11:30 a.m. EST on ESPN+.

UCLA will battle San Diego State in the final men’s game at 10:30 p.m. EST Wednesday on CBSSN.

Women’s matchups

The University of Connecticut — one of the most successful women’s basketball programs in history — paused its season Monday and postponed its first four games after a positive COVID-19 test emerged from within the team.

Despite UConn’s absence from a wealth of women’s season openers, plenty of other top programs fill Wednesday’s schedule.

No. 1 South Carolina will host Charleston in the first televised game of the women’s season. That game has a noon EST tip off and will air on the SEC Network. No. 2 Stanford will battle Cal Poly at 2 p.m. EST, but that game won’t be televised nationally.

No. 4 Baylor will take on Central Arkansas at 8 p.m. on ESPN+. No. 5 Louisville — which had their initial season opener canceled — will take on Southeast Missouri State in a late-scheduled game at 3 p.m. EST on ESPN+.

March Madness plans include single sites

Virginia and Baylor won the most recent men’s and women’s Division I basketball titles, respectively, but weren’t able to defend those titles because the 2020 tournament was canceled.

NCAA officials announced in mid-November that they are in “preliminary talks” with the state of Indiana and city of Indianapolis to host the annual 68-team men’s tournament in March and April.

The NCAA typically conducts the tournament at 13 preliminary-round sites throughout the United States, but plans to hold the 2021 tournament in one geographic area as a safety precaution amid the pandemic.

The women’s basketball committee said in mid-November that it “intends to maintain a field of 64 teams” for its annual tournament. The committee also said it has a variety of contingency plans, which includes the reduction of first- and second-round sites or having the tournament in one location.

Men’s season openers — all times Eastern

Florida College at South Florida at 11:30 a.m. on ESPN+

McNeese at Nebraska at noon on Big Ten Network

Radford at Virginia Tech at noon on ACC Network Alternate

North Carolina A&T at Illinois at 2 p.m. on Big Ten Network

Illinois State at Ohio State at 2 p.m. on ESPN

Memphis at Saint Mary’s at 2 p.m. on ESPN2

Drake at Kansas State at 2 p.m. on ESPNU

Lamar at Houston at 3 p.m. on ESPN+

North Carolina Central at Iowa at 4 p.m. on Big Ten Network

Bowling Green at Michigan at 4 p.m. on ESPN2

Delaware State at Wake Forest at 4 p.m. on ACC Network Alternate

Oklahoma State at UT Arlington at 4 p.m. on ESPN

Morehead State at Kentucky at 6 p.m. on SEC Network

Eastern Michigan at Michigan State at 6 p.m. on Big Ten Network

Liberty vs. Purdue at 6 p.m. on CBSSN

Coker at South Carolina at 6:30 p.m. on SEC Network

Northwestern State at Texas Tech at 7 p.m. on ESPN+

Arizona State vs. Rhode Island at 7 p.m. on ESPN

St. Francis at Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. on ACC Network Alternate

High Point at Davidson at 7 p.m. on ESPN+

Florida A&M at Florida Gulf Coast at 7 p.m. on ESPN+

Oral Roberts at Missouri at 7 p.m. on SEC Network

Saint Peter’s at St. John’s at 7 p.m. on FS2

SIU Edwardsville at Saint Louis at 7 p.m. on ESPN+

Mississippi Valley State at Arkansas at 7:30 p.m. on SEC Network

Charleston Southern at NC State at 8 p.m. on ACC Network

Tennessee Tech at Indiana at 8 p.m. on Big Ten Network

Jacksonville State at Alabama at 8 p.m. on SEC Network

Central Connecticut at UConn at 8 p.m. on FS1

Villanova vs. Boston College at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN

VCU vs. Utah State at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN2

Eastern Illinois at Wisconsin at 10 p.m. on Big Ten Network

UCLA at San Diego State at 10:30 p.m. on CBSSN

Women’s season openers — all times Eastern

Charleston at South Carolina at noon on SEC Network

Oral Roberts at Arkansas at noon on SEC Network

Murray State at Kentucky at 1 p.m. on SEC Network

Lamar at Texas A&M at 1 p.m. on SEC Network

Omaha at Iowa State at 1 p.m. on ESPN+

Samford at Alabama at 1 p.m. on SEC Network

Jacksonville at Miami at 1 p.m. on ACC Network Alternate

Radford at North Carolina at 1 p.m. on ACC Network Alternate

Grambling at Florida at 1 p.m. on SEC Network

Xavier at Detroit Mercy at 2 p.m. on ESPN3

SMU at Texas at 2 p.m. on Longhorn Network

Louisville vs. Southeast Missouri State at 3 p.m. on ESPN+

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