Thu. Nov 30th, 2023

Wrapped into the Pac-12’s announcement Tuesday that it was postponing football and all other fall sports to 2021 was the news that the conference also would not allow winter sports, including men’s and women’s basketball, to play until the new year.

It makes the Pac-12 the only conference to go so far as to postpone the basketball season as well in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The postponement of basketball isn’t necessarily a surprise; all the concerns about fall football – community spread, lack of timely testing, heart issues resulting from COVID-19 – apply to basketball, too.

But it still presents a series of new challenges for coaches to solve.

For USC men’s basketball, one of the most pressing questions is if there will be any kind of nonconference schedule. The Trojans have seven new players to incorporate into their program, including five transfers who to this day have not met their new coaching staff or teammates in person.

Nonconference games represent a team’s best chance to build on-court chemistry before getting to Pac-12 play, when games take on more meaning as teams attempt to build up their NCAA tournament résumés.

“It will be challenging because out-of-conference is a time to grow as a team,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “We had a new team last year as well, so it was very helpful to play an out-of-conference season because we had some experience before we went into league. This year will be probably a little different.”

The way Pac-12 play looks could be different, too.

One possibility, as reported by the Pac-12 Hotline’s Jon Wilner, is mini-bubbles (or pods) within the Pac-12 schedule. The idea would borrow from the Pac-12’s typical travel partner schedule. If USC and UCLA traveled to the Bay Area to play Stanford and Cal, the four teams would quarantine together in one city to limit travel and campus exposure.

It’s an idea Enfield endorses, and one he hopes could extend beyond just Pac-12 play.

“I think it would be great to explore out-of-conference mini-bubbles as well,” he said. “Because you could get a conference season as well as some probably really good out-of-conference games. I think everything should be explored in the next couple months to plan to have a quality season across the country.”

For now, USC will settle for just getting to know each other. Next week marks the start of the fall semester, and players will finally arrive on campus for the first time since their 2019-20 season was canceled in March.

The Trojans will be limited upon their return; they still are not permitted to practice in the gym, per Los Angeles County guidelines. They will instead begin eight-hour weeks of conditioning with four hours in the weight room, typical for summer conditioning that USC missed while its players were away from campus.

It’s not much, but it’s a start as USC begins to build before it can start a full training camp. Enfield said he thought the team would need a typical preseason schedule (30 practices in 42 days) to be ready for games in January.

But everything is subject to change as understanding of the virus evolves.

“To me, the medical part of it drives everything else,” Enfield said. “This is still a health issue versus a political or financial issue.”


By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

Leave a Reply