As the NBA, WNBA, and NHL continue to successfully push through their respective seasons in bubbles, along with The Basketball Tournament already crowning a champion in a similar – albeit smaller – bubble up in Columbus, OH, college basketball seems to be all-in on a similar idea.
Earlier this week, the NCAA officially filed a trademark for “Battle in the Bubble” with the intent to use the phrase for its tournaments and merchandise. This comes after NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt turned heads back in August when he said that as long as basketball is being played safely anywhere in the world, they’ll find a way to play college basketball, even if it means they have to play in a bubble.
“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,” said Gavitt. “Making sure we’re making informed and responsible decisions in a timely fashion, we remain very confident that we’re going to have a basketball season.”
“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,” Gavitt said in a follow-up interview, “that is potentially an opportunity to create regionalized and controlled environments in bubble-like scenarios for non-conference or conference games.”
John Calipari, who is on several committees discussing plans for the upcoming season, also said he’d be in favor of holding the NCAA Tournament in a bubble.
“The NBA and the WNBA has given us a path that we can do this, including the NCAA Tournament,” Calipari said in an interview on ESPN Radio’s The Intersection. “We can play the NCAA tournament in a bubble. Instead of it being weeks on weeks long, maybe it’s shorter. You lose, you’re out of the bubble. You go home. I think that basketball is different. You’re talking a team of 12 and probably a party of 22. It’s totally different than most of the other sports.”
With the idea of bubble-like environments emerging as strong possibilities for the college basketball season, potential host locations are spreading like wildfire.
According to college basketball insider Jon Rothstein, here is the list of locations pushing for their own bubbles:
- Orlando, FL
- “Prime location to play multiple early season college basketball tournaments in a bubble type setting.”
- Using NBA bubble as a model
- Harrah’s Cherokee Center in Asheville, North Carolina
- This bubble would include both non-conference and conference games.
- Winthrop in Rock Hill, SC
- Event planners are aiming to put together a field that will feature 16 high-major programs and 4 mid-major programs
- Event is proposed to be held between 12/1 and 12/22
- Offers teams a maximum of eight non-conference games
- Indianapolis, IN
- Home of the NCAA’s national office
- The Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C.
- Preseason bubble
- The Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, SD
- Preseason bubble
- Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT
- “Multiple early season college basketball tournaments in a bubble type setting.”
Beyond Rothstein’s reports, here are some of the other possible locations being discussed:
- Houston, TX
- Rhossi Carron, the founder of U-Sports Group, has already reached out to 50 teams with his plan for a 20-team event in Houston in December
- The event would be called the “Battle in the Bubble,” identical to the name the NCAA has trademarked
- Omaha, NE
- Creighton AD Bruce Rasmussen is discussing a conference-only bubble for Big East teams
- Des Moines, IA
- Drake AD Brian Hardin has discussed the possibility: “I look at it and there’s 20 or so schools that are within a five, five-and-a-half hour drive of Des Moines.”
According to Rothstein, schools are considering the possibility of eliminating Spring Break in 2021 and pushing back the spring semester a few weeks in order to accommodate more bubble opportunities and create flexibility for the upcoming season.
With the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee proposing an official start date of November 25th to the Division 1 Council for the 2020-21 season, is it time to prepare for a bubble-only season?