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Mountain West changes basketball scheduling format

The countdown continues toward opening day of the 2020-21 NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season and scheduling remains in a state of flux.

Teams are allowed to begin their seasons Nov. 25 but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced schools and conferences to rethink and revamp their plans. That includes the Mountain West, which announced changes to its scheduling format Monday.

Out is the 18-game, home-and-home schedule which the Mountain West released last month. In its place will be a 20-game conference schedule with teams playing each opponent twice.

In the new format, teams will play each opponent twice during a three-day span at a single site with an off day in between. Each team will have five home series and five road series, reducing the amount of travel necessary, mitigating virus exposure and allowing for greater flexibility if COVID-19 cases force postponements during the season.

The league schedule is set to begin in December and conclude the final week of February, allowing Mountain West tournament dates (March 8-13) to remain as previously scheduled.

Monday’s changes also figure to help Mountain West teams fill out their schedules with two extra league games. Coronavirus restrictions and uncertainty regarding travel have created headaches as teams attempt to complete non-conference schedules. New Mexico and New Mexico State are among many programs that have not yet announced non-conference schedules.

A Mountain West release said Monday’s changes “emphasize the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches and staff while significantly reducing travel.” The release said revamped MWC schedules are “forthcoming.”

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