College basketball fans continue to get positive news as the upcoming season approaches. A new season start date of November 25th was approved this past Wednesday. Last month, the idea of a college basketball bubble for March Madness received substance by Mark Emmert. All that is left is figuring out how the NCAA gets to March with games to evaluate teams on. Conferences are working on their own plans for league play. However, non-conference games remain in limbo.
Things are starting to look better on that front though. More bubble locations are starting to be confirmed for multi-team events (MTEs). This would allow teams to get some non-league games played between the span of Thanksgiving and Christmas. There seems to be a collective effort forming for programs to help each other out and get a few games played during that stretch.
College Basketball Bubble Location Updates
Uncasville is no stranger to hosting MTEs for college basketball. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has been holding tournaments there for almost a decade. CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander reported that a college basketball bubble here is being planned at the Mohegan Sun Center. The date range is from December 9th-20th, with the hope that 32 games can be played among 16 teams. However, the sponsors are remaining flexible with teams. The Mohegan Sun Center has already proven itself with hosting other events during the pandemic.
For this bubble, players and staff must test negative for the coronavirus within 72 hours of arrival. Nobody can move in or out of the bubble once it is established. A $75,000 entrance fee is being sought, though mid-major programs may get a fee reduction to help them get some games. This would be a great location for the abundance of schools located in the Northeast.
This location is brand new and emerged after the announcement of the new season start date. Louisville Cardinals’ Head Coach Chris Mack posted a bulletin on his Twitter page about it.
Hey D1’s – Get Your Games Here
Louisville Non Conference Bubble
Nov 25-Dec 5
3-5 games per team
Medical Protocols ✔️
Spots filling fast.
— Chris Mack (@CoachChrisMack) September 18, 2020
The window falls right before Thanksgiving and extends into the first week of December. The expectation is that this will be used to help local teams get some non-league games. An ESPN report said that Mack had explicitly mentioned Bellarmine, also located in Louisville, as a potential participant. The report also said that lodging would be free for all teams and that testing costs would be split among every program that played. While Mack’s tweet says spots are filling fast, no other teams have been rumored to be confirmed. This would be a great location for schools located in the greater Louisville and Cincinnati areas.
Las Vegas, Nevada
The West Coast needs a bubble too, and the leagues on that side of the country are trying to work together for it. The Big Sky, WCC, WAC, Big West, and Mountain West are teaming up and pitching Las Vegas as a potential destination. Big Sky Commissioner Tom Wistrcill has been adamant about getting non-conference games for his members.
“We’ve talked about it as a league…where a team would potentially fly down to Las Vegas, maybe spend five days down there, get three, four games in a controlled environment with other non-conference opponents,” said Wistrcill.
He is also hopeful that, if the Pac-12 changes its mind about starting in January, they will join the bubble. That would certainly help out the rest of the leagues that would be there from a monetary perspective. Should the Las Vegas bubble fall through, Spokane, Washington is another option on the table. That implies that Gonzaga may be working on its own plan to help out the leagues situated on the West Coast.
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is the first site mentioned here that has a confirmed event. The 2020 Maui Invitational was moved to the city’s Harrah’s Cherokee Center on Friday, with the dates happening from November 3oth-December 2nd instead of over Thanksgiving weekend. The field for this year’s event is Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas, and UNLV.
Aside from that, the location is also attractive to leagues like the Big South and Southern Conference, who have members in Asheville’s backyard. The Southern Conference already plays its conference tournament there. Furthermore, the city has been talking with UNC-Asheville about two facilities on campus that could help as well. Teams that come here would stay in hotels, take virtual classes, and have meals brought to them. Traffic routes have been restructured to prevent teams from crossing with each other when arriving at the arena. Asheville has a plan that could allow teams to play for a few months, meaning playing a full conference schedule is not out of the question there for leagues that are interested.
This is a location that many have been championing from the start since it is where NCAA headquarters are. However, the first real plan to come out of the city has surfaced. The Indiana Sports Corp put forth a college basketball bubble plan last week. The Indianapolis Convention Center is the proposed location, which can house eight courts: six for practices and two for games. The proposal has been sent to every league and is intended to have flexibility for any interested parties.
“Our plan is flexible so that when decisions are made, they can act quickly and we can meet their needs,” stated Indiana Sports Corp President Ryan Vaughn.
Four sets of dates have been set aside with the idea of maximizing the number of games that could be offered to various programs. These dates span from Thanksgiving to the end of February. Daily testing would be conducted, and entire hotels are ready to set aside their services for teams that come. The entrance fee is $90,000.
Houston was the very first known location to send college basketball bubble proposals to programs. Coordinator Rhossi Carron has held MTEs in the city prior. His proposal was two ten-team divisions, with competition taking place between December 1st and December 21st. However, his location is only meant for non-conference games. Teams would have to quarantine on campus for seven days and then an additional three days once arriving on site. Furthermore, teams would only be allowed to bus here.
Testing would occur every other day while temperature checks would be done daily. Schools would use money set aside for buy-games to pay for their entry fee. However, there was also some discussion about bringing in some HBCU programs to help ensure they get some games in. Given the parameters of this proposal, it seems best suited for teams located in East Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. No further details about this bubble have emerged since it was first brought to light in August.
Durham, North Carolina
This is another fresh location that emerged after the NCAA’s decision Wednesday. This location is proposed by Duke and being led by Mike Krzyzewski. It is one that is in its infancy stage, with few details available regarding lodging or testing plans. The one detail that was discussed was that the event that would be played here would have a social justice theme, something that Krzyzewski has been spearheading throughout the off-season. Additionally, it would likely include some Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Keep in mind that Duke University has one of the best hospitals in the country, meaning an in-depth plan to keep everyone safe would more than likely emerge. If more traction comes of this location, it would be in high demand and a perfect spot for programs located in the Mid-Atlantic.
Exit the NBA and enter the NCAA. The success of pro basketball in Orlando has led eight high-profile events to move their tournaments to Disney and ESPN’s Wide World of Sports facilities. They are the Champions Classic, the Jimmy V Classic, the Preseason NIT, the Charleston Classic, the Orlando Invitational, the Myrtle Beach Invitational, the Wooden Legacy, and the Diamond Head Classic.
There are a few teams that are scheduled to play in multiple events that moved there. Therefore, an offer is on the table for those teams to stay there as long as they need, preventing multiple entries and exits from the bubble. No details have been released regarding testing and costs, something that will be more prevalent of an issue for college teams than NBA teams. Still, it is hard to argue against the massive success the bubble has been for the NBA at this location, making it perfect for college games.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
The Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls almost received the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. However, that fell through the cracks as the event was officially canceled by organizers. However, that does not mean the teams that were scheduled to play in the event could not reorganize themselves in South Dakota. This would exclude Duke for the aforementioned reasons.
This arena annually hosts the Summit League Tournament and has a great partner in Sanford Health, which already provides testing to the PGA Tour. Two non-conference games are scheduled there (Iowa/Oregon State and New Mexico State/Northern Iowa). There is plenty of time for other teams and events to consider the Pentagon as an option.
College Basketball Bubble Future Developments
College basketball fans should expect the number of rumors involving bubbles to take off in the coming weeks. The Cancun Challenge moved to Melbourne, Florida. The Kentucky Wildcats are also planning on having their own MTE. However, they will host teams that were already scheduled to play there. This an exciting time for the sport. The times are unprecedented, but everyone seems to be all-in on getting bubbles created and games played.