Some College Basketball Teams Begin With a New Feeling of Emptiness

The case — near others that contain Nike team sneakers and signed basketballs, among other memorabilia — has room for a trophy but only a small white platform inside, with a team photo on one side and the slogan “Unfinished Business” on another with a summary of the season. Ionescu, who was selected first over all by the Liberty in the W.N.B.A. draft, used the motto before the start of her senior season and it took on new meaning once the tournament was canceled, which the summary said ended “possibly the greatest season in program history.”

Said Graves: “It’s something that we will keep blank until one day we are fortunate enough to win a national championship.”

That feeling of missed opportunity is an undercurrent for some teams as college basketball returns for a new season, a beginning that is already rife with problems that have led to coaches openly questioning the wisdom of playing with the virus surging around the United States.

“It was really difficult for the returners to let go of last season. It took a long time, it was a big transition,” Oregon forward Erin Boley said after scoring 25 points and grabbing nine rebounds against Portland on Monday. “We are so excited to have this new team, and it’s a great opportunity for us to create something special.”

Luka Garza, the star center for the Iowa men’s basketball team, said many teams feel similarly because there was no closure on the court in the spring.

“We worked so hard to put ourselves in a position to make the N.C.A.A. tournament and possibly make a run in the Big Ten tournament,” Garza said after scoring 41 points against Southern on Friday. He added: “In the off-season, I just went into the gym and started working out again. It hit me later, like a month later, that the season was finally over and I took a break.”

Dayton could have had a top seed in the N.C.A.A. men’s tournament last season and was primed for a deep run with Obi Toppin, the consensus national player of the year who was drafted by the Knicks last month. Dayton’s coach, Anthony Grant, said he has been telling his players to “be where your feet are” and not focus on last year, even though it’s easy to speculate.

Grant’s approach makes sense in a sport where much changes season to season and this team’s goals are its own. The same rings true for the Oregon women, even as this season carries its own uncertainty as the coronavirus cases increase.

“Everyone that gets recruited here is a winner here, I don’t think that changes,” said Oregon guard Taylor Chavez, who won the Pac-12 Conference’s Sixth Player of the Year Award last season. “The path to that will look different, but the goal is to win as many games as you can and have fun doing it. Nothing has changed with the goals.”

Those ambitions are clearly visible at Oregon’s practice courts,

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