What’s ahead, Will Brown said, is “definitely different.”
“The bottom line,” the UAlbany men’s basketball head coach said Monday, “is that we have to make it work. That’s the mindset of everyone involved.”
The America East Conference, of which UAlbany is a member, announced Monday its scheduling format for conference play during the 2020-21 season, which will take place as the nation continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. That slate of league play will call for the Great Danes’ men’s and women’s teams to play each of the conference’s other nine schools twice for a total of 18 America East games apiece, but all league games will be played on Saturdays and Sundays.
Within one weekend, two teams will play each other twice, and at the same site for both games. That means UAlbany will play some opponents only at home and others only on the road.
“But we’re minimizing our travel that way,” said Brown, who said the conference’s coaches had “constant communication” with America East officials in the months leading up to Monday’s unveiling of a conference schedule formatting that amounts to a season broken down into nine weekend series.
The America East won’t release full details of its league schedule until early next month, but conference games will start with the Dec. 19-20 weekend and some weekends will be left open to accommodate games that need to be postponed because of issues related to the pandemic. To play a full league schedule, America East teams will require nine weekends — and, starting with the Dec. 19-20 weekend, there are 11 weekends available through the end of February. The 2021 NCAA tournament’s bracket is scheduled to be unveiled on March 14.
The America East Conference’s press release issued Monday didn’t reference a postseason tournament or an overall fan policy for basketball, and an attempt to contact the league regarding those topics was unsuccessful. UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson said his “expectation is there will be a conference championship tournament,” and that the attendance of fans at games will likely be left up to individual institutions, which need to follow their respective state’s guidelines.
Brown said there had not been “much discussion” to this point regarding a conference tournament because “the emphasis and priority” had been on establishing a regular-season plan, but that he expects attention to turn toward how the America East will crown a champion now that its conference scheduling format has been decided.
In recent years, the America East postseason has consisted of eight teams playing in a three-round tournament spread across campus sites. Brown said his “best guess” is that a similar-style tournament is unlikely to occur in 2021, given the league’s decision to reduce travel during the 2020-21 regular season.
“But,” Brown said, “so much could change between now and March.”
UAlbany started its preseason last Wednesday when college basketball teams around the country were allowed to start practicing. Due to restrictions related to the pandemic, UAlbany won’t allow contact at its practices until Nov. 2.
Meanwhile, its non-conference schedule remains unfinalized. Teams are allowed to start playing games on Nov. 25, but Brown said last week there is “no shot” the Great Danes will play on opening night.
IN OTHER NEWS
Besides how its basketball season will be scheduled, the America East made announcements Monday related to several other sports, too.
The conference announced the cancellation of its 2021 indoor track and field championship and shifted the swimming & diving regular season and championship to the spring semester.
The league also announced plans for how it will shift traditional fall sports to playing during the spring semester since those seasons were previously postponed due to the pandemic. The league’s cross country championship will take place on March 5 at a to-be-determined site; field hockey will play an eight-game season starting March 19, then the top-four teams will advance to the conference tournament that starts April 22; men’s and women’s soccer teams will play six-game schedules, with the men starting play on Feb. 28 and a four-team league tournament starting April 15, and the women starting play on March 7 and a four-team league tournament starting April 16; and, women’s volleyball teams will play 12 matches starting Feb. 28 with the top-two teams advancing to the April 4 conference championship.