College basketball to return for 2021

GNAC announces plans for conference basketball season

Daniel Newman

Zack Paulson, sophmore guard, practices one on one against freshman Chris Penner. Basketball games will resume for a shorted season in January. (Jacky Chen)

Eight months and one day after the NCAA cancelled the rest of the 2019-20 sports seasons for Seattle Pacific University and schools around the country, Falcon fans now have some knowledge about how sports will return in 2021.

On Nov. 13, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference announced their plans for the Men’s and Women’s Basketball conference season, which will begin sometime after Jan. 7.

While the conference was already down one team due to Concordia University in Portland closing this year, the conference season for basketball will only involve four teams, as six schools have chosen not to participate due to COVID-19 related reasons.

Seattle Pacific is one of the schools choosing to play in the shortened season, along with the University of Alaska Anchorage, Northwest Nazarene University, and Saint Martin’s University.

Members of the Seattle Pacific’s Men’s and Women’s teams found out the news on Friday, and some were surprised and disappointed by it.

“It was disappointing, the fact that it was only four teams, but also encouraging that our president and AD here are so supportive of us playing,” redshirt freshman Chris Penner said.

These four schools will play two games in a row against the same opponent on Fridays and Saturdays. Various COVID-19 protocols will have to be followed and athletes will be tested weekly. Anytime an athlete is not in the game, they will have to wear a mask while on the bench and in the gym. No spectators will be allowed in the stands during these contests.

This season, Seattle Pacific Men’s Basketball will return most of their members from last year, when they won the regular season conference championship. Their opponents will provide them with a pretty hefty challenge. UAA defeated the Falcons in the conference tournament last year, and NNU was the fourth best team in the conference. Saint Martin’s finished close to the bottom of the conference last season, finishing with a record of six wins and 23 losses.

“It’s disappointing that we don’t get to play all the teams, but the coaches have been saying this all along, ‘as long as there’s a national championship and a GNAC championship to compete for, it’s worth it,’” redshirt sophomore Filip Fullerton said.

It will be an even bigger challenge for SPU women’s basketball, as a roster with more underclassmen than upperclassmen will have to take on the top two finishers in the conference last year in UAA and NNU, and Saint Martin’s University, who beat them twice last year.

The plan is set, but there is still a lot of uncertainty regarding how long the season will last. With cases going up in Washington and around the country, there is much that still remains to be seen.