The college basketball season is upon us and given how many games have been on television, the casual fan may feel like it is December already! NCAA bylaws dictate that the first day an official game can be played is the second Friday in November. As such, this year’s start date (November 8) is in fact the earliest possible day that the NCAA can play a game. As the season begins, each coach is faced with a decision of continuing to work on his or her team’s improvement, or shifting focus towards preparation for the opponent.
This challenge can be further complicated if your team has a high number of games early on in the season. Ivy League teams frequently face this issue for a multitude of reasons. League play begins several weeks into January, which is significantly later than all other NCAA Division I conferences and leagues, some of which begin play in early December. It is very rare for an Ivy League school to be able to schedule a non-league game in January. Most conferences have a bylaw prohibiting non-conference games once January (or conference play) has begun. As such most out of league games must be completed in November and December. At Cornell, our final exam period stretches not one, but two weeks long which further eliminates possible game dates for our already stuffed schedule (4 games in the first 8 days!). As such, games are often played with two, one, or even zero days of preparation.
With minimal time between games in November, it can be difficult to find the necessary time for team development and cohesion early on in the season. Fortunately, the weeks in late December and early January allow for a lot of time for individual and collective improvement. Schools in our league are exceptional at taking advantage of this period. If you want to see how far teams can go during the season, take time out and watch two Ivy League teams in November or December. Then watch the same two teams play each other in February. You will be amazed at the individual and team improvement you will see on the floor.
Ivy League teams are widely recognized for their improvement over the course of a season’s time. Keep an eye on your favorite team throughout the season. By the end of the year you’ll be amazed at the progress that is made!