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There will be a college basketball season. Bank on it.

Unless the coronavirus pandemic gets so bad that mandatory stay-at-home orders are issued again, Iowa State and others in Iowa will play college basketball.

The games should go on, even though Iowa State’s 2020-21 school calendar now says the fall semester ends on Nov. 25 and the spring semester starts Jan. 11.

If it’s safe and healthy enough to start the season, then administrators will do everything they can to finish it without too much interruption. Losing NCAA Tournament revenue two seasons in a row would be a tough financial blow to withstand. Same for the Big 12 Conference tournament in Kansas City. It’s the same dire scenario almost everywhere, except for the bluest of blue bloods among the college athletics world.

Unfair to the student-athletes, you wonder? Is it hypocritical to invite them to stay on campus, when there’s still no beyond-scholarship compensation for athletes that make millions of dollars for colleges everywhere?

"Speaking for myself, it's a dream to play major-college basketball," said former Iowa State star Matt Thomas and a member of the Toronto Raptors. "You work your whole life to get to the top, but I also understand if some people feel the other way (about playing, while campus us essentially closed.)"

It’s not any more so a topic than it already is, considering receiving money for name, image and likeness still isn’t a reality. And anyway, Iowa State’s men’s schedule has eight games during what will be the new semester break, including two in the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Florida. There were five last season between semesters. Basketball players are used to being on campus when fellow classmates aren’t.

If there’s a post-holiday break in the schedule — that’s when basketball players should have the option to leave campus.

For the Cyclones men, that’d be after the Dec. 22 game against Chicago State at Hilton Coliseum and whenever the Big 12 Conference part of the season starts. That timing hasn’t been released yet, but last season, Iowa State began conference play Jan. 4 at TCU.

Look at it this way: Classes have been over, anyway, between mid-December and early January. Men’s and women’s basketball hasn’t stopped under normal break circumstances, so why would they be interrupted this time, when it’s just about a month longer gap between semesters?

The coronavirus?

“It lessens your possibility of getting infected, when you’re almost the only people on campus, right?" former Cyclones star Georges Niang replied when I ran the 2020-21 Iowa State calendar past him. “You’re not having huge interaction with kids on campus.

“The only people you’ll be around every day are your teammates and your coaches — guys you’re around every day, anyway.”

I asked Niang about keeping basketball players on campus, while the rest of the student body essentially will have been sent home.

“You want to be different when you’re on the basketball team — you like being different,” said Niang, a member of the NBA's Utah Jazz. “You wear the gear, and you wear it proudly. You’re a big deal, and you like it, but you don’t want to feel any different than the regular students in situations like what’s going on now?

“For (a player) to think that, doesn’t make sense. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.”

I hit a nerve.

“It’s fair, because you’re doing what most kids enjoy doing," Niang said. "You would rather be playing, than having that taken away from you during the middle of the season. Everybody knows how disheartening it was when the season was abruptly ended last year.”

MORE:Iowa State stars now in NBA dish on 'millionaires' summer camp'

Conference tournaments were canceled. The NCAA Tournament was canceled. The NBA stopped its season. The sports world stopped. And now, it’s gradually starting to reopen.

“Adjusting the calendar will allow us to complete the semester before Thanksgiving and minimize the potential spread of COVID-19 due to holiday travel,” Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen wrote in a letter to students and staff. 

Iowa State and Northern Iowa announced Wednesday that they will start classes a week early — on Aug. 17 — and finish the first semester on Nov. 25. Classes will be held on Labor Day.

“Sports is a sacrifice when you commit to a Division-I program,” Niang said. “Schools will do a good job taking care of you.”

Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been writing for the Des Moines Register for parts of six decades. Reach him at rpeterson@dmreg.com, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete. No one covers the Cyclones like the Register. Subscribe today at DesMoinesRegister.com/Deal to make sure you never miss a moment.

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