A basketball at the Honda Center, where the Big West Tournament will be played again in 2021 from March 10-13. (Kason Clark / Daily Titan)

With college basketball set to begin on Nov. 25, the Big West conference announced on Wednesday the conference schedule for both men’s and women’s basketball, set to begin on Dec. 27. 

This year, with the addition of Cal State Bakersfield and UC San Diego, each team will play 20 conference games, an increase from the usual 16 conference matchups. Normally, each team would play one home game and one away game against each other. However, this year teams will play the same opponent on consecutive days, usually on Friday and Saturday, which is a format the conference said “will reduce travel and emphasize the health and safety of student athletes, coaches and staff.”

To begin the season, Cal State Fullerton’s men’s basketball team will host Cal State Northridge on Dec. 27 and play against them at home the following day. On the women’s side, the Titans will play at CSUN on Dec. 27 and play them on the road again the next day. 

"Obviously, the back-to-back games are quite a bit different, but it's just one of the many challenges we'll all have to face,” said Jeff Harada, CSUF women’s basketball head coach, in a statement released by the athletic department.

The schedule will be played over an 11-week period that ends on March 6, as each team will get one week off. For CSUF, the men’s and women’s teams will be off for the games on Feb. 26-27.

Should a team need to quarantine or cannot play due to positive COVID-19 cases, the conference will not reschedule any games that are missed. The Big West board of directors, which consists of the conference’s school presidents, also announced that there will be no fans attending any of the games to start the conference season, but that can change as the season progresses.

"We just want to play and compete while being as safe as possible,” said Dedrique Taylor, CSUF men’s basketball head coach, in a statement. “We are going to continue to closely follow all the protocols that are in place and keep our guys as safe as possible while working as hard as possible."

Dan Butterly, the conference commissioner, said in the statement that the conference received guidance on making the schedule from the U.S. Council for Athletes’ Health and James Borchers, its president, who is also the director of sports medicine at Ohio State. Game and testing protocols for conference games will be announced by the Big West before the games begin.

“The Big West conference understands the need for consistent and multi-layered levels of testing protocols that put safety at the forefront for our member institutions,” Butterly said in a statement. “We feel we have a plan in place that will adhere to those mandates.”

The Big West Tournament will still be held once the regular season is over, which will be played at the Honda Center from March 10-13. The top eight teams will participate in the tournament, and the conference will utilize tiebreaking rules if needed to determine the seeding. Those rules will also be announced by the conference in the coming weeks. 

Since there is over a month between the start of the college basketball season and the start of conference play, the Big West added that each member can decide how many games they will play during the time period. 

Neither of CSUF basketball teams has announced any non-conference games, but Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports reported in April and May that the men’s team would play at San Diego State and the University of the Pacific. 

The women’s team enters the season coming off its best season in 20 years, as the team went 17-14 and 8-8 in conference play, reaching the Big West Tournament quarterfinals. However, Harada will have to find a replacement for reigning Big West Player of the Year Raina Perez, who transferred to North Carolina State.

On the men’s side, Taylor will attempt to get his team back to the top of the conference after three straight seasons of 10 conference wins, as they were 6-10 last season in the Big West and 11-20 overall. The team was the No. 7 seed in the conference tournament, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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