Will Kentucky basketball participate in the first official bubble of the college basketball season? It’s a possibility.
According to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, Orlando is prioritizing four signature events for college basketball bubbles, including the Champions Classic.
“While Orlando has emerged as a bubble location for many early season tournaments in college basketball, four signature events – Champions Classic, Jimmy V Classic, ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and SEC/Big 12 Challenge – have emerged as primary priorities above others,” Rothstein wrote on Twitter.
Sources: While Orlando has emerged as a bubble location for many early season tournaments in college basketball, four signature events — Champions Classic, Jimmy V Classic, ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and SEC/Big 12 Challenge — have emerged as primary priorities above others.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) September 8, 2020
Kentucky is scheduled to take on the Kansas Jayhawks in the season-opening event, while Duke is set to take on Michigan State in the other half of the Champions Classic.
This would also allow for Kentucky to participate in another mid-season bubble for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, which is typically held in late January. Last year, the Wildcats defeated Texas Tech in Lubbock by a final score of 76-74 on January 25.
Back in August, UK head coach John Calipari floated the idea of playing the Champions Classic in the bubble, saying he would be interested in taking on all three event participants – Duke, Kansas, and Michigan State – round-robin style.
“With basketball, we’re talking 12 players, a party of 20. I think the bubble or a pod, it’s been shown to work now,” said Calipari. “Do you have multiple bubbles or pods? Do we go and play the Champions Classic in a bubble, without fans, and we play each other? We all play each other round-robin? We could walk away with three games [played].”
After knocking out three non-conference opponents in a single event to open the season, Calipari says that could pave way to similar bubble/pod events moving forward.
“Do we put in a bubble or a pod, let’s say Kentucky, Louisville, and Michigan State with three “bye games?” Detroit, where my son plays, Murray State, and East Tennessee State, and we play a round-robin so we get bye games where those teams really need that money. Can we do it that way?” Calipari asked. “Is the NCAA Tournament in a bubble? I know [NCAA SVP] Dan Gavitt right now is looking at all kind of different options. What I’m happy about is we’re doing it now, we’re not waiting until two months from now. No, we’re doing it now to figure it out.
“We now have multiple paths, the NBA and WNBA have both shown that we can do this.”
NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt previously noted that “as long as basketball is being played safely anywhere in the world this season, we’ll be playing NCAA college basketball as well, both regular season and certainly the tournament in 2021.” He then confirmed the possibility of a “bubble-like” environment for student-athletes in the winter months.
“During the month of late November and into December when most of our schools are in virtual learning environments and/or after exams during the traditional holiday break,” said Gavitt, ” that is potentially an opportunity to create regionalized and controlled environments in bubble-like scenarios for non-conference or conference games.”
All eyes are typically on the Kentucky basketball program to open the season. This time around, though, that attention may be magnified, as the Wildcats could be one of the first college basketball teams to test out a bubble.