Could Bubbles Work for NCAA Basketball?

Now that it’s been confirmed that the NCAA will play basketball, and the start date is scheduled to be November 25th, the next issue at hand is how the NCAA will execute the season. Rumors have been swirling regarding this topic, and the most popular ideas are bubble-related. It’s evident that the NCAA will have some type of bubble, since they have already filed a trademark for the phrase, “Battle in the Bubble.” That being said, could bubbles actually work for the NCAA?

Bubbles have worked extremely well for professional leagues around the country and Canada thus far. The NBA bubble held 22 teams in Orlando at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. Per several reports, the NCAA is interested in creating several bubbles that’s similar in style to the NBA bubble. MLS showed us that the bubble experience was possible. The NHL had two bubbles, one in Toronto and one in Edmonton, that both held strong throughout the return of hockey. Thousands and thousands of tests were administered, with extremely minimal or zero positive Covid-19 tests in all sports.

The main key will be deciding where to hold these bubble events. The bubbles have to be located in areas near several schools. The bubbles also need to have adequate housing extremely close to the facilities. Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway had this to say regarding bubbles: “Maybe do it for maybe a week or two at a time, playing a certain amount of games and getting retested after you come back or something like that. It’s possible, but it’s not going to be easy.” I think this is an interesting idea that could work. Leave teams in the bubble for two weeks, play seven games or so, then let teams go back home for one to two weeks so the student-athletes can focus on school and seeing their families.

What makes this much trickier for the NCAA versus the NBA or other leagues, is the fact that the players are also students. The NCAA has to set limits for how many members of the staff can travel, and how many tutors can travel with the teams. Tutors are critical, since athletes won’t be able to attend in-person classes, and also may have to miss online classes because of the hectic schedules that would occur inside the bubbles.

Since the NCAA lost out on millions of dollars last year on the cancellations of conference tournaments and postseason tournaments, they will do everything in their power to have a somewhat-normal season. The NCAAs best chance at achieving that are having 10-20 bubbles all over the country.

NCAA Basketball Has a Return Date, And More

NCAA basketball will be back on November 25th.

On Wednesday, September 16th, the NCAA held a four hour meeting to discuss and decide what the college basketball landscape will look like for this years NCAA basketball season.

The NCAA pushed back the basketball start date from November 10th to November 25th, a move that I, along with many others, predicted. This start date makes sense because many schools are moving online following Thanksgiving break, so starting the day before Thanksgiving gives athletes the chance to finish up in-person classes without setbacks. Closed campuses will also provide for a bubble-like scenario for potential non-conference games. Grace Calhoun, the Athletic Director at Penn and Division 1 council chairwoman, stated that starting during the week will prevent any potential scheduling conflicts with football programs, as well as travel plans for television viewership.

While the official start date is the headlining note from this meeting, there were many other changes made to the NCAA basketball season that are also quite important.

The maximum number of games teams can play has been changed from 31 to 27, and the minimum games teams can play to be considered for the NCAA tournament has been changed from 25 to 13. This is an interesting change that doesn’t penalize schools who deal with more Covid-19 issues than others. The main idea regarding the game changes, is not to penalize schools that have problems due to Covid-19, but also not to overplay players. The goal is for each school to play two games per week, so the minor maximum change makes sense due to a 2-week shortened season.

Another big note that was approved was the civic legislation part of the meeting. All programs will have off on November 3rd, so every basketball player has the opportunity to vote. This is long overdue, and is a great sign of progression within the NCAA elites. This is the sole change that will be reoccurring. The previous changes I mentioned in this article are stapled with this season, but moving forward every year student-athletes will have Election Day off.