LOUDONVILLE — MAAC basketball teams will play a 20-game conference schedule and be allowed to play up to five non-conference games during the 2020-21 season, Siena athletic director John D’Argenio confirmed Tuesday.
Within the MAAC scheduling model — which will see men’s league games take place on Tuesdays and Fridays, and women’s games take place on Wednesdays and Saturdays starting in December — there will be a week left open in February to allow for potential make-up games if any need to be postponed because of issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The idea is that the second-to-last week of the regular season will be left open,” D’Argenio said. “In the event there’s any disruption, we can move games into that window to make them up.”
The gap between league games is intended to allow for programs to be able to meet the NCAA’s expected coronavirus testing requirement between games.
“The thing I like the most about this plan is it’s a reasonable approach that will allow for us to get the conference season completed, and still allows for some, limited non-conference opportunities,” MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor said. “Our primary focus is the completion of the conference season. . . . There’s still a lot of question marks, but this allows us to meet our goal.”
Stadium’s Jeff Goodman first reported details of the MAAC’s plan.
Siena will need to trim considerably its non-conference schedules, and D’Argenio strongly hinted that the Siena men’s program’s previously scheduled trip to Florida to take part in the Nov. 25-29 Orlando Invitational will not take place given the likely need for the Saints to quarantine for 14 days, per state guidelines, upon their return.
“I think that decision has kind of been made for us,” D’Argenio said.
A revised starting date for non-conference games is expected to be announced Wednesday at the NCAA level, but D’Argenio said Siena’s teams won’t play games any earlier than Nov. 25. At present, Division I basketball games are allowed to start Nov. 10, but that date is likely to change to somewhere within the final 10 days of November.
While subject to change if “state regulations are amended,” according to the MAAC’s plan, no fans will be allowed at games hosted by MAAC schools through Dec. 23.
Per New York state guidelines, Siena currently cannot have fans at its games. D’Argenio said Siena’s teams won’t play any home games at downtown Albany’s Times Union Center if fans are not allowed in the building, and will instead play all home games without fans at Alumni Recreation Center.
“Right now, we have no fans,” D’Argenio said. “If they are allowed, then we can reassess the safety aspect of getting them into the building.”
Ensor, though, said the league potentially could not allow fans present at games beyond what’s deemed necessary at the state level. Removing fans from games takes away from the sport, Ensor said, but the league isn’t “rushing to have fans in there, frankly, because that adds so many more issues related to exposure to the virus.”
Ensor added: “There’s a recognition that we need to start slow.”
The MAAC’s league schedule is expected to be announced next week. The first batch of MAAC games for men is scheduled for Dec. 8, and the first women’s games follow on Dec. 9. No league games are scheduled for Dec. 22-23 or Dec. 25-26, and MAAC teams will be allowed to schedule a non-conference game on the Dec. 22-23 dates, at their discretion.
The week of Feb. 21 will be left open to allow for potential make-up games. There will be regular-season games scheduled for the week of Feb. 28, and the MAAC tournament will take place March 9-13 in Atlantic City.
The Siena men finished 20-10 last season and won the MAAC’s regular-season title, while the Siena women finished 11-20.