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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

No sport was impacted by the onset of COVID-19 more than college basketball, which saw the cancellation of March Madness. Now, we've come full circle, with details emerging about the upcoming campaign.

Where things stand: The season will begin a few weeks later than normal on Nov. 25, with the non-conference slate comprised mostly of multi-team events.

  • Tournament eligibility: Teams must play a minimum of 13 games to be NCAA tournament eligible (down from 25) and can play no more than 27.
  • Multi-team events: The Maui Invitational will be held in Asheville, North Carolina, instead of Hawaii, and eight of the 10 tournaments ESPN puts on each fall will be played at the same Disney venue currently hosting the NBA playoffs.
  • Conference play: Formatting and schedules are still undetermined for most leagues, but various options remain open, including bi-weekly "pods," where a handful of teams could gather to knock out a few games in a single weekend.
  • Ivy League and Pac-12: These two conferences previously stated they wouldn't play sports until 2021. They could still change their minds (as the Pac-12 is already considering for football), or they could play conference-only schedules starting in January.

The big picture: As with all sports conversations in 2020, the calculus must include safety measures, financial obstacles and oftentimes the intersection of the two.

  • Testing protocols: The NCAA has not released testing standards, but the expectation is they will do so soon (as opposed to leaving it up to conferences).
  • Resource disparity: Regular testing costs a lot of money, as do entry fees for bubble tournaments. This could serve to widen the gap between smaller and larger schools whose coffers were already vastly different sizes.
  • Lack of "buy games": Low- and mid-major schools can earn upwards of $600,000 per season through "buy games," in which high-majors pay them to play. But even the biggest schools are financially distressed right now, so those games could be infeasible.

What to watch: The non-conference picture will become clearer once conference schedules are released, because teams will know what dates are available. Thus far, only the MAAC has released its full schedule with actual dates.

Preseason snapshot:

  • Top 10 teams: 1. Gonzaga, 2. Baylor, 3. Villanova, 4. Illinois, 5. Iowa, 6. Wisconsin, 7. Virginia, 8. Kansas, 9. Kentucky, 10. Tennessee.
  • Top 5 upperclassmen: Luka Garza, C (Iowa, Sr.); Ayo Dosunmu, SG (Illinois, Jr.); Jared Butler, SG (Baylor, Jr.); Remy Martin, PG (ASU, Sr.); Marcus Garrett, PG (Kansas, Sr.).
  • Top 5 freshmen: Cade Cunningham, PG (Oklahoma St.); Evan Mobley, C (USC); B.J. Boston, SG (Kentucky); Ziaire Williams, SF (Stanford); Scottie Barnes, PF (FSU).

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Jul 9, 2020 - Sports

College sports stare down a coronavirus-driven disaster in the fall

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Wednesday was the worst day in college sports since March 12, when the coronavirus pandemic shut everything down.

Driving the news: The Ivy League announced that it will cancel all fall sports and will not consider resuming sports until Jan. 1, 2021 — and Stanford is permanently cutting 11 of its 36 varsity sports to help offset a projected $70 million, pandemic-fueled deficit.

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

The bomb cyclone and atmospheric river seen via satellite on Sunday. The center of the storm is at the middle of the comma shape, due west of Washington State. (CIRA/RAMMB)

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

Mike Allen, author of AM
5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Fauci fires back at Rand Paul for slam on tonight's "Axios on HBO"

Responding to charges by Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday's "Axios on HBO," NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "ABC This Week" that it's "molecularly impossible" for U.S.-funded bat virus research in China to have produced COVID-19.

Why it matters: The issue 0f Wuhan research was reignited on the right last week with a National Institutes of Health letter to Congress disclosing more about the research.