Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend

CAAplay set to start, with a twist

Back-to-back games part of virus response

- BY JOHN O’CONNOR joconnor@timesdispa­ (804) 649-6233 Twitter: @RTDjohnoco­nnor

CAA basketball begins this weekend, the start of a league schedule like none before in conference history. For the most part, teams will play one another on back- to- back days at the same venue as the CAA adjusts in response to the pandemic.

According to CAA commission­er Joe D’Antonio, the league schedule was designed based on safety, minimizing travel and hotel stays, and economics as schools struggle with financial shortfalls.

“It also played perfectly into the testing cadence that our member institutio­ns have where, based on rules here with the conference, they are required to have three- times- aweek testing making sure that those tests are [ conducted on] alternatin­g days, not back- toback days,” said D’Antonio.

William & Mary ( 2- 3) opens Saturday, and then plays again Sunday, at Hofstra ( 4- 3), the CAA favorite that won 76- 71 at Richmond on Dec. 22.

“It will be very different,” Tribe coach Dane Fischer said. “Really, it’s going to be after

[ the Saturday] game, getting back and letting the guys get recharged and do what they need to do to get themselves ready to go physically the next day.

“There will be a lot of uniqueness to it for all of us.”

In typical seasons, teams would have played 13 nonconfere­nce games. W& Mwas among several CAA teams that paused during the nonconfere­nce schedule because of positive COVID tests and contact tracing.

“We’re all dealing with the same issues,” Fischer said. “No one that we play is going to say, ‘ Well, they’ve only played five games so let’s make sure we take it easy on them.’ At least I don’t think they will.”

James Madison ( 3- 3) was supposed to begin CAA play at Towson, but COVID issues in the Tigers’ program postponed the two meetings.

“I have no idea whatmy team is right now,” first- year Dukes coach Mark Byington said. “We played six games nonconfere­nce, and they’ve been in a nine- day window. Westarted out playing three in five days and then we played three in four days, and we’ve been paused twice.”

Byington’s count, JMU has been in quarantine 26 days since the start of practice.

“I don’t know what we are yet,” he said. “We’re still trying to figure it out. We’re trying to get guys used to me. I’m trying to get used to them.”

D’Antonio expressed satisfacti­on that CAA teams made it through the nonconfere­nce portions of their schedules, though some teams played more games than others because of COVID. Each CAA team is scheduled to play 18 league games.

“We anticipate, unfortunat­ely, that there will be some starts and stops,” said D’Antonio, referring to CAA competitio­n.

The ultimate goal is to get all teams to a total of 13 nonconfere­nce and league games, the minimum required for NCAA tournament eligibilit­y, according to D’Antonio.

 ?? THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? JamesMadis­on guard Matt Lewis, the CAA preseason player of the year, averages 21.2 points and 5.8 rebounds.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS JamesMadis­on guard Matt Lewis, the CAA preseason player of the year, averages 21.2 points and 5.8 rebounds.

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