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Where the Colonial Athletic Association stands with basketball postponements and cancellations

SportsCAA NewsWhere the Colonial Athletic Association stands with basketball postponements and cancellations
The pandemic has brought up questions regarding what will happen if a team were to catch COVID-19 prior to the CAA or the NCAA tournament. Patrick LaPorte/The Review

BY Senior Sports Reporter

As the men’s and women’s basketball regular season schedule comes to a close, some teams are close to completing a majority of their full conference schedule, while others are just reaching nine of the originally scheduled eighteen games.

UNC-Wilmington’s men’s team has not played a game since Jan. 31 partly due to COVID-19 protocols within their program. All 10 men’s programs in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) have had to make their way through at least one postponed series. A previously scheduled ten games during the Feb. 20 and Feb. 21 weekend were reduced to just one game between William & Mary and Elon.

On the women’s side, not much is different. Multiple teams have failed to reach ten games yet. However, the slate of games for Feb. 20 and Feb. 21 were much more complete than the men’s side. Still, the women’s teams are having to deal with many challenges — including having only nine active programs. 

Back on Feb. 12, William & Mary’s women’s basketball team opted out of the remainder of the 2020-21 season “due to concerns over student-athlete health and well-being.” The Tribe had played eight conference games up to that point, holding a 3-5 record. The CAA released a statement supporting the school’s decision and noting how they are moving forward in postseason plans:

“The Conference will continue to follow its health and safety guidelines while completing the regular-season schedule and plans to conduct a nine-team CAA Women’s Basketball Championship,” Commissioner Joe D’Antonio said in the statement.

In order to remedy the mixed-up conference configuration, the CAA released a new bracket for the women’s tournament. Now, the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds will play in a round of their own, with the winner moving on to the quarterfinals and facing the top seed. Previously, seeds 7 through 10 would have had to play in the opening round for the rights to make the quarterfinals.

Still, the conference is navigating health and safety protocols to safely reschedule games for the postponements across the league. 

“I’d say it’s been disappointing that we haven’t been able to play all of our games,” D’Antonio said in an interview. “But we’ve been committed to adhering to the policies and procedures that we put in place.”

While an equal amount of games for every team is next to impossible, he did note that the conference leaders are focusing on rescheduling games before the end of the season to maximize the number of games each team can play in a safe environment.

“We’ve tried to reschedule games when the opportunity has been there to make that happen,” D’Antonio said. “As we move towards the last three weeks of the season, there is no guarantee that all games will be played, and I think everybody knew that when the season began.”

The commissioner also said that the CAA is doing their best to have all teams play at least 13 games, which is the minimum number of games needed to be eligible for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament in March .

Amid all of the cancellations and postponements, the conference has a standing rule that will guarantee champions of men’s and women’s basketball are named for this year.

“The highest remaining seed … is declared the automatic [NCAA Tournament] qualifier for the conference … if the Tournament is canceled altogether or postponed after it has started,” D’Antonio said. 

Unlike prior seasons, tournament seeding could be of the utmost importance given the propensity for games to be postponed or canceled. As long as the team that receives the automatic qualifying bid — whether through a CAA Championship game win or having the top remaining seed — has 13 regular season games completed, the NCAA will permit their entrance into the tournament.

D’Antonio did mention that ambiguity lies in the question of what the NCAA would allow in the event that the CAA auto qualifier cannot play in the tournament due to COVID-19 protocols. 

“Let’s say our tournament is over, and we’ve declared a winner,” D’Antonio said. “What happens if that team contracts COVID-19 [and] can’t attend the tournament: Are we able to replace the team, and what is our policy?”

For now, that possible conundrum is left up in the air unless the NCAA releases a COVID-19 provision for teams that receive an automatic bid for the 68-team bracket. Meanwhile, the CAA’s seeding rule makes every game critical in order for teams to jump others in seeding.

Delaware’s men’s team sits at No. 5 in the conference standings with a conference record of 5-4, three games behind the conference-leading James Madison Dukes at 8-1. 

The women’s team is at the top of the standings at 14-2 and in position for the top seed in the conference tournament. The Blue Hens boast a sizable win percentage advantage over second-place Towson, at .875 for the latter and .700 for the former.
Given the women’s seed positioning, they have a good safety net in the case that the CAA Tournament is postponed midway through or canceled altogether, based on the rule D’Antonio mentioned.

One series remains for Coach Natasha Adair’s squad against Towson — two games that could end up determining who clinches the key No. 1 seed heading into postseason play.

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