There never has been much doubt a 2020-21 Division I college basketball season would occur in some form, with an NCAA Tournament and a majority of programs finding a way to participate.
The NCAA’s announcement Wednesday of a Nov. 25 start date for men’s and women’s basketball — with guidelines and requirements for staging a season — made that official.
The NCAA was not in position, however, to offer a substantial degree of clarity regarding many of the variables.
Will there be bubbles? Will there be non-conference games and early season tournaments? What impact will the loss of non-conference revenue have on programs in less wealthy conferences? What will the NCAA Tournament look like? Will it expand or contract? Will any conferences choose not to participate, or to construct their own window of competition?
It’s not clear.
This is the best day for college hoops, though, since the major conference tournaments tumbled March 12 and Mark Emmert announced the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament.
“The new season start date near the Thanksgiving holiday provides the optimal opportunity to successfully launch the basketball season,” senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said in the NCAA’s release. “It is a grand compromise of sorts and a unified approach that focuses on the health and safety of student-athletes competing towards the 2021 Division I basketball championships.”
MORE: Behind Big Ten’s football plan
College basketball’s last good-news day before this occurred was Aug. 2, when Sports Grind Entertainment Player of the Year Luka Garza of Iowa led a relative deluge of early draft entrants away from the brink of turning professional and instead back into the NCAA game. Since then, it mostly had been discouraging.
The decisions a week later by the Big Ten and Pac-12 not to compete in fall sports were daunting for college hoops. It raised the possibility neither would participate in winter sports, either.
The Big Ten had announced it was back in the fall football business by the time word leaked Wednesday the NCAA had settled on its various college hoops concepts — the start date, the opening of practice (Oct. 14), the maximum number of games (27), the minimum (13), the recommendation for non-conference competition (four games) and the elimination of scrimmages and exhibitions. That cleared some of the hurdles for what may be college basketball’s most powerful conference to be involved through the winter.
The Big Ten still has much work to do to get its football players onto the field, so there figures still to be some work to do to establish its men’s basketball plan.
ESPN reportedly has been working on using some variation of the bubble it helped to create in Orlando to stage the various multi-team tournaments it owns, not simply the AdvoCare Classic that traditionally has been contested at the HP Fieldhouse. There has been discussion of moving the Maui Invitational to Indianapolis or Charlotte and the Battle 4 Atlantis to South Dakota.
Some conferences, though, still might wish to constrict themselves to conference-only competition. We will be hearing from them individually over the coming weeks on their various plans. We will hear from the NCAA on what March will be like. There is much to be decided.
There will be hooping, though. That we know.
NFL Browns’ star Odell Beckham addresses sex, poop rumor
Odell Beckham Jr. is pooped from all the rumors, but this one left him in tears.
While the Cleveland Browns wide receiver is no stranger to being in the news for non-football reasons, the most recent snafu involving Beckham was a new one. He started trending on Twitter earlier this month after the “Thots Next Door” podcast alleged a bizarre sexual preference of his involving poop.
“Out of every rumor, situation, all the bulls–t I’ve dealt with in my career, this was the funniest s–t,” the 27-year-old Beckham told Maverick Carter in an interview for Uninterrupted.
Beckham said he woke up to a text from a friend who had sent him the video of the allegation.
“It was like seven in the morning when I was going to take my [COVID-19] test and I watched it and I called him back in tears crying,” Beckham said. “I have never, ever, in my life heard this one. I couldn’t even believe it.
“I was on the field and they were like, ‘Don’t tell me it’s true, man. Don’t tell me you like to get s–tted on.’ I was like,’ Dog, I’ve never heard this in my life.’ Out of all the rumors, I never could have imagined this is even real.”
The former Giant — who consistently is the subject of trade rumors — said over the course of his career he has learned how to deal with rumors or critiques.
“I feel like I was always trying to come to my own defense,” Beckham said. “I just realized it was a lose-lose-lose situation to speak on something… It got to the point where, what am I going to say? It’s not going to matter. If I don’t say something, it probably means it’s true because I didn’t defend myself. If I defend myself, then I’m probably trying to hide the truth.”
Beckham said he’s also feeling more settled in his life, living in Cleveland with girlfriend Lauren Wood.
“It’s been very special,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve ever been with somebody, like, living with somebody and just with somebody, with somebody. I love her to death and it’s just been great.
Big Ten football returns: Full week-by-week breakdown of new-look 2020 schedule
The Big Ten unveiled its schedule Saturday — the conference’s third-different slate of games for the 2020 season.
The conference will play eight games starting Oct. 24, a new schedule that offers a few new wrinkles for 2020. Ohio State — the three-time defending champions — will face rival Michigan in the final week of the season on Dec. 12.
MORE: What to know about Big Ten football schedule start date & more
That would be the end of the road of a successful return to college football — one that features some interesting cross-division games between the Big Ten East and Big Ten West divisions.
Here is a week-by-week breakdown of the best the Big Ten schedule has to offer in 2020:
Big Ten schedule: Week 1
Saturday, Oct. 24
|Nebraska at Ohio State|
|Michigan at Minnesota|
|Penn State at Indiana|
|Iowa at Purdue|
|Illinois at Wisconsin|
|Rutgers at Michigan State|
|Maryland at Northwestern|
Big takeaways: Nebraska and Ohio State were among the most vocal dissenters of the original Big Ten decision, but it won’t be so united on the field. The Buckeyes have averaged 53 points per game against the Huskers in the last five wins. Michigan-Minnesota might be the better game; The Wolverines might face more pressure on the road in that spot for the Little Brown Jug against a talented Gophers team — especially if it’s Joe Milton’s first start.
Big Ten schedule: Week 2
Saturday, Oct. 31
|Ohio State at Penn State|
|Michigan State at Michigan|
|Wisconsin at Nebraska|
|Northwestern at Iowa|
|Minnesota at Maryland|
|Purdue at Illinois|
|Indiana at Rutgers|
Big takeaways: Ohio State at Penn State won’t be a “White Out,” but this is the biggest early-season challenge for the Buckeyes, given Penn State is the last Big Ten East team to beat them. Can the Nittany Lions avoid a second-half collapse? Michigan State’s Mel Tucker will get his first taste of a rivalry the Wolverines have taken back. Nebraska faces the toughest two-week start of any Big Ten team, but at least the Badgers are coming to Lincoln. Wisconsin has won seven straight games against the Huskers.
Big Ten schedule: Week 3
Saturday, Nov. 7
|Michigan State at Iowa|
|Maryland at Penn State|
|Purdue at Wisconsin|
|Rutgers at Ohio State|
|Michigan at Indiana|
|Minnesota at Illinois|
|Nebraska at Northwestern|
Big takeaways: Maryland could be 2-0 and catch Penn State in an emotional letdown situation. That’s a chance for coach Mike Locksley to make a statement. Michigan isn’t getting any early-season breaks, knowing Indiana has kept two of the last three meetings in Bloomington within a touchdown. That said, the Hoosiers haven’t beat Michigan since 1987. Purdue at Wisconsin would be more exciting if Boilermakers star Rondale Moore returns to the field.
Big Ten schedule: Week 4
Saturday, Nov. 14
|Penn State at Nebraska|
|Ohio State at Maryland|
|Wisconsin at Michigan|
|Iowa at Minnesota|
|Indiana at Michigan State|
|Northwestern at Purdue|
|Illinois at Rutgers|
Big takeaways: Michigan’s schedule is brutal. The Badgers visit Ann Arbor in Week 4, and that’s a series where the home team has won the last four meetings since Jim Harbaugh and Paul Chryst arrived in 2015. Nebraska’s brutal cross-division slate continues with a trip to Penn State, and Iowa-Minnesota is an intriguing leg in the Big Ten West race. The Hawkeyes have won the last five meetings in the battle for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy.
MORE: Ohio State must be perfect — on and off field — to gain favor with College Football Playoff committee
Big Ten schedule: Week 5
Saturday, Nov. 21
|Iowa at Penn State|
|Indiana at Ohio State|
|Purdue at Minnesota|
|Michigan at Rutgers|
|Wisconsin at Northwestern|
|Michigan State at Maryland|
|Illinois at Nebraska|
Big takeaways: Penn State-Iowa games are always physical. The Nittany Lions have won the last three meetings by a combined total of 13 points. That’s a fun cross-division game. If Northwestern still is in the Big Ten West hunt, then this is the biggest spot on the schedule at home against Wisconsin. The Badgers and Wildcats have split the last six meetings.
Big Ten schedule: Week 6
Saturday, Nov. 28
|Penn State at Michigan|
|Minnesota at Wisconsin|
|Nebraska at Iowa|
|Ohio State at Illinois|
|Northwestern at Michigan State|
|Maryland at Indiana|
|Rutgers at Purdue|
Big takeaways: If the Wolverines survive the first half of the schedule, then this game against the Nittany Lions will be huge. The home team has won the last four meetingS in this series, and a few of those games have been blowouts. Minnesota-Wisconsin should decide the Big Ten West, and it’s a chance for P.J. Fleck to score that signature victory in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe. Nebraska-Iowa still is on Thanksgiving weekend, too.
Big Ten schedule: Week 7
Saturday, Dec. 5
|Ohio State at Michigan State|
|Maryland at Michigan|
|Northwestern at Minnesota|
|Indiana at Wisconsin|
|Iowa at Illinois|
|Penn State at Rutgers|
|Nebraska at Purdue|
Big takeaways: Ohio State travels to East Lansing to face Michigan State in an all-in game for first-year coach Mel Tucker — and a week before “The Game,” to boot. The rest of the schedule is ho-hum, though Northwestern-Minnesota could produce one of those patented wild finishes. Purdue has won the last two meetings against Nebraska. Scott Frost has to win this one.
Big Ten schedule: Week 8
Saturday, Dec. 12
|Michigan at Ohio State|
|Wisconsin at Iowa|
|Michigan State at Penn State|
|Minnesota at Nebraska|
|Illinois at Northwestern|
|Purdue at Indiana|
|Rutgers at Maryland|
Big takeaways: “The Game” is in its rightful spot at the end of the schedule. Michigan travels to Ohio State with the usual storylines at stake. Harbaugh is 0-5 against the Buckeyes, and the Wolverines have not won in Columbus since 2000. It’s the game that will generate the most headlines on Dec. 12. Wisconsin at Iowa could decide the Big Ten West, considering how the schedule breaks for both teams. The schedule-makers did an excellent job of preserving the Indiana-Purdue and Illinois-Northwestern rivalries in their proper spots, too. Who is ready for the cross-division schedule in Week 9?
Theo Epstein would be perfect for Steve Cohen’s Mets: Sherman
Two “ifs” first:
“If” Steve Cohen gains control of the Mets by receiving the necessary 23 ownership votes and “if” he decides to remove Brodie Van Wagenen as head of baseball operations, then his priority should be securing Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein.
Talent to do a job must come first, and Epstein was the architect of two champions. But what makes him ideal for the Mets is the identity of the two champs — the cursed Red Sox and Cubs.
The Mets must stop operating as if they are hexed and a second-class citizen in New York. They need a black-cloud extraction. No one can provide credibility in that area like Epstein.
He helped make the Curses of the Bambino and Billy Goat vanish. The Yankees have not wanted to see Alex Rodriguez as Mets owner. Beware what you wish for. Imagine how the Yanks would feel, though, if Epstein showed up in their neighborhood with Cohen’s billions of dollars backing him? The Red Sox have won four titles to the Yankees’ one since Epstein helped change the narrative of that rivalry forever.
Will Cohen do this? He is not publicly providing insights. Maybe he will value continuity in the short term. When he was close to buying the Dodgers before the 2012 season, word was he would have strongly considered Arn Tellem — coincidentally with an agent background like Van Wagenen — to be team president. It is possible Cohen could try for Tellem (now vice chairman of the Detroit Pistons) or someone with that gravitas to come in as president to oversee Van Wagenen and see how that works for 2021.
But I do not believe Cohen will feel pressure to stand pat simply because of the calendar, should he not be approved (if he is approved) until late October or November. This is not a billionaire from Minneapolis buying the Mets.
Cohen grew up in Great Neck and is a lifelong Mets fan. He has owned a minority stake in the team for eight years. He watches the games (his wife and father-in-law are avid Mets fans, too). He has talked baseball philosophy with Van Wagenen. Thus, he would take over with a strong opinion on everything with the Mets, including if Van Wagenen, midway through a four-year contract, should stay.
He plans to own the team for the rest of his life and is not going to be dissuaded for what is best for just 2021. Besides, with the lost revenue in the game in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the expectation is the free-agent market is going to be flooded with a bunch of non-tenders and be slow moving, as a majority of teams aim to cut payroll next year.
There usually is a new-owner syndrome to spend money immediately to make a mark, so do you — for example — think the agents for J.T. Realmuto, George Springer and other high-end players will wait to see what Cohen wants to do with his $14 billion even if a GM is not hired until, say, mid-November or not?
So the only question is: Does Cohen want Van Wagenen? If not, he could look into New York or New York-area-raised Mets fans like him, such as Indians GM Mike Chernoff (his first baseball job was as a $50-a-week Mets intern), Rangers GM Jon Daniels and Brewers GM David Stearns. All are qualified, with Stearns (who previously worked for the Mets) particularly intriguing and attractive.
Cohen’s hedge fund is facing a gender-discrimination suit, and to counter perceptions maybe he would like to hire the first female head of baseball operations. Yankees assistant GM Jean Afterman has never shown the desire for such a job, but if she did, this would not be a token. She is tough, smart and would have credentials as good or better than someone like Tellem.
If Cohen were thinking groundbreaking and long term, he could hire the first black baseball GM in New York history by promoting Brooklyn-born Mets executive director of player development Jared Banner, whose star is rising in the game — he is just 33. But Brian Cashman was just 30 when the Yankees tabbed him, and the youngest GM hire ever was just 28 — that was Epstein by the Red Sox after the 2002 season.
Three questions to answer why the now 46-year-old Epstein would be the right hire:
Why would the Cubs let him go? Epstein has always said his life span in any baseball executive job is 10 years. He is in Year 9 with the Cubs. He is owed about $10 million next year. One area that owners have indicated cuts could be coming is in the high-priced baseball operations heads (Cohen’s billions would be more immune to this). Cubs owner Tom Ricketts probably would not stand in Epstein’s way, especially since a succession plan with current Chicago GM Jed Hoyer has been long layed out.
Why would Epstein do it? When contacted by The Post, Epstein offered no comment. And Epstein is of the status that you should expect: 1. He would interview a next owner as much as the owner would interview him; 2. He would demand an ownership stake, akin to, say, what Billy Beane has in Oakland.
But no matter what they say, executives care about legacy. The Red Sox and Cubs titles almost certainly ticketed Epstein for Cooperstown. But if he helped get a parade for a third cursed franchise, Epstein arguably becomes the greatest North American sports executive in history.
His wife is from Bloomfield, N.J., and we know Epstein is adrenalized by big markets and massive projects.
Why would the Mets pick him? To repeat: He is talented, proven and a hex-breaker. He is smart, competitive and collaborative. Also, the Mets should have no fear of a late start with him. He was hired as a first-time GM on Nov. 25, 2002, after Beane spurned the Red Sox at the 11th hour. Before spring training ended, he made seemingly small trades or free agent signings of Bronson Arroyo, Kevin Millar, Bill Mueller, David Ortiz and Mike Timlin — a quintet who helped Boston go to ALCS Game 7 in 2003 and end The Curse the following year. A late start won’t hurt on player personnel with a skilled person who has been working for an NL team and has firm opinions.
It would have greater impact in forming a staff. But Epstein hired Banner and Mets assistant GM Allard Baird in Boston, so he would enter with strong ties to two key lieutenants. Plus he’d be able to pick from the scores of executives and scouts who have been laid off recently throughout the game in COVID-related cutbacks.
Epstein would be an ideal choice for the Mets. Does Cohen want to make a change? Would he come?
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