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.
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.