South Carolina Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley doubts college basketball season will start on time

South Carolina women's basketball coach Dawn Staley, whose team is expected to be ranked No. 1 in the preseason, said she's preparing for an on-time start to the season Nov. 10. But she has doubts.

"In my gut, do I feel like we're gonna start in November?" Staley said. "No, I don't. But I do think we'll have a season. When that start date is, I don't know. We continue to not have many answers, but a lot of questions."

NCAA vice president Dan Gavitt said Monday that the Division I men's and women's basketball oversight committees would continue to study the situation created by the coronavirus pandemic and announce by mid-September a decision on potentially changing the season's start date.

For Staley, the uncertainty extends beyond her Gamecocks, who finished last season ranked No. 1. She is also coach of the U.S. women's national team. That squad played exhibitions and qualifying tournaments during the winter, but right now has nothing firm on the books in terms of 2021 Olympic preparation after the WNBA playoffs end in October.

"Once we're able to see what we're going to do with the college season, we'll likely get the group here in Columbia, and hopefully create some type of bubble," Staley said of the national team members. "But we don't really have anything right now, because everything is so up in the air."

In regard to bubbles, Staley said she would support having them for the NCAA men's and women's tournaments if that was deemed necessary. NCAA president Mark Emmert raised that possibility last week.

"I have former players in the WNBA bubble, plus look at the NBA bubble," Staley said. "It is contained, and they are both setting an example of how we can move sports forward."

Staley said none of her players has yet expressed an interest in sitting out this coming season, as several football players have done, because of COVID-19 concerns. But she said it could become an issue with college athletes in sports other than football.

"I don't think we're there yet with anyone on our team. But if we get there. I totally understand, I get it," Staley said. "We've said, 'If you guys feel unsafe, if you don't feel like you can go through it without risking putting your health at risk, you're welcome to go home and keep your scholarship.' We've had those kinds of conversations."

Staley said her players so far have said they wanted to play and have been very committed to safety precautions. She said one player recently texted her, worried that other students she encountered weren't wearing masks.

"Our players are taking it very seriously," she said. "They are holding each other accountable for making sure everyone follows our protocol."