Women's hoops are happening: NCAA approves start date for season

After much uncertainty, the Lady Bulldogs know when they can take the court again. Here's what it means.

During a women’s basketball workout at Stegeman Coliseum on Sept. 3, 2020. (Courtesy of Tony Walsh — Georgia Sports Communications)

ATHENS, Ga. — There aren’t many better pairings than turkey, family and watching the premier teams in women’s college basketball face off.

This upcoming season, after to a slight delay because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’ll be the grand opening. The Division I Council approved a Nov. 25 start date (the day before Thanksgiving) for college basketball, according to multiple reports and an eventual announcement by the NCAA.

The altered start date is only two-and-a-half weeks later than originally scheduled. After months of uncertainty, the minimal change allows teams to implement a fairly-normal routine. Georgia opened its 2019 campaign on Nov. 7 against Kennesaw State.

It is unknown how scheduling will look as of Sept. 16. There are more steps required by schools, conferences and the NCAA to have a firm outline intact. Georgia had only one finalized game on its schedule — Oklahoma in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge. Jacksonville State, an OVC foe, also planned to face the Lady Bulldogs.

Any potential previously-planned Thanksgiving tournaments might also have to be altered across the sport. Georgia has played in early-season tournaments in Puerto Rico and Daytona Beach, Fla. over the past two seasons.

Along with a date in place, the Division I Council approved a set of guidelines that shape the schedule:

  • A team must play a minimum of 13 games to be eligible for the NCAA tournament

  • A minimum of four non-conference games are recommended

  • The maximum amount of games played is 27 (trimmed by two for women, four for men)

  • Team practice can start Oct. 14 (Georgia’s players began splitting the team for workouts in late July.)

  • No scrimmages or exhibitions are permitted

Under the blanket term “college basketball,” it is unclear as to whether slight alterations are to be made for the women’s game. Nonetheless, the guidelines should follow along a mirroring path.

The next hurdle for the Lady Bulldogs is scheduling. There are a few questions to ponder as a slate of games is formed: Do the annual non-conference games with Mercer and Georgia Tech remain? How about the usual games with SoCon opponents like Furman, Gardner-Webb and Mercer (once again) with differing Covid-19 protocol across conferences? Does the SEC alter the usual 16 in-conference games for women’s basketball?

The uncertainties remain present. But the biggest one is out of the way. Basketball is happening — and on a similar schedule. It’s a significant moment of relief for players and coaches who have prepared for months.

When you fix your Thanksgiving plate, there’ll be a side of hoops available yet again.

This story will be updated if further information is released by the NCAA.