Today, the 2020 college basketball season begins. The last time college basketball was displayed on our television screens, it was absolute pandemonium. One league was suspending the season, while others were continuing with their conference tournaments as scheduled. Some were planning on playing without fans. As we all know now, the conference tournaments and NCAA tournament never happened as college basketball completely shut down, one of the first dominoes to fall in sports as the world went into lockdown.
Fast forward more than eight months, and teams from around the nation are scheduled to start playing today, but as we’ve all learned by now, everything is tentative. The NBA, NHL, and UFC provided a template for safely playing sports in the middle of a worldwide pandemic through the use of a bubble concept. The NCAA is trying its own with Bubbleville. That’s where many teams will start the 2020 college basketball season. What is Bubbleville?
The last time college basketball was played
March 11, 2020 will go down as a dark day in sports history. It was the day the NBA suspended the 2019-20 season “until further notice.” Less than 24 hours later, college basketball players, coaches, and fans watched in disbelief as one conference after another canceled their respective tournaments, one domino after another tumbling in slow motion.
The morning of March 12, the Big Ten made the first move and was followed by the SEC, ACC, Pac-12, and Big 12. The Big East called off its tournament at halftime of the Creighton-St. John’s game.
That afternoon, came the biggest blow of them all when the NCAA canceled all remaining winter and spring championships, including the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. It was the first time in the tournament’s 81-year history the NCAA had canceled the event.
Bubbleville is NCAA’s first attempt at the bubble concept
While Bubbleville is a catchy name and a sign of the times, others have successfully blazed the trail during the initial return of sports in late spring. The UFC was the first sport to introduce the concept back in May. The MLS, NBA, and NHL followed suit, all resuming their seasons in a bubble with no fans allowed.
Other sports, like MLB and the NFL, opted for a non-bubble approach. In September, college football was the first NCAA sport that returned to action, but it was next to impossible to set up a bubble concept due to a variety of factors, most significantly, the size of the teams and coaching staffs.
With college basketball, the bubble concept, like the NBA, is much more manageable with smaller teams and staffs. As has initially been the case in all bubbles, no fans will be allowed.
What is Bubbleville?
Bubbleville will be 11 days of NCAA basketball featuring over 30 men’s and women’s teams playing 40 games at the Mohegan Sun Arena at the casino located in Uncasville, Connecticut. It will feature multiple tournaments, including the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Challenge and the Gazelle Group’s Empire Classic.
The schedule will feature several preseason-ranked squads from both the men’s and women’s game. Appearing among the men will be No. 4-ranked Virginia, which is the defending national champion, but from the 2019 season. Unfortunately, with COVID-19 cases spiking across the nation, multiple teams have already withdrawn, including the No. 2-ranked Baylor men’s team and the No. 3-ranked Connecticut women’s team.
Games will be played throughout the day, with more than a dozen scheduled to be broadcast nationally on the ESPN family of networks and Fox Sports.
As this Thanksgiving holiday approaches, college basketball fans, players, and coaches are thankful to have the game back after last season’s historic and incredibly disappointing ending. Fingers crossed, the tournament is just the start to a season that will be safely and successfully navigated through to completion.