How Can College Basketball Can Happen This Year? Bubble Up
NCAA Tournament must happen this year to save college athletics.
Find your bubble locations
College football may be more popular than college basketball but the NCAA Tournament is the real money maker and there is no way for college sports to survive as we know it with back-to-back tourney losses.
Taking ideas from the NBA, NWSL, MLS, and NHL gave me an idea. All of those have in common and it is the bubble. It would take a lot of work and some investment but the payoff would be worth it to have an NCAA Tournament.
Now, this would be very costly to create a bubble for college basketball teams and the conference, not to mention what would other non-revenue sports feel about if they can’t play over college basketball. Well, it unfortunate but the answer to most questions is money.
The NCAA Tournament being canceled last year cost universities a whole lot of money and the insurance didn’t pay out nearly as much as if the tournament played. That check that is to be cut for college sports to continue as we know it.
There are already leagues that have pushed back college basketball to Jan. 1, with the latest being the Pac-12. Expect all of the exempt and non-conference tournaments to not take place and every league just go with conference-only play, and starting in December or January.
The idea for how a Mountain West bubble could work is in a few ways but it involves a lot of testing, bubbling, and online school.
The Mountain West with its 11 teams should attempt to do a double round-robin to play 20 conference games. Typically, the Mountain West schedule starts around the first part of the new year and that could be done again.
Las Vegas Bubble
Having one bubble would be the most cost-effective way to host a Mountain West season. In Las Vegas, there are plenty of hotels and multiple courts like the Thomas & Mack, T-Mobile Arena, MGM Grand, and the Orleans.
The teams are on campus in the last week of December into early January in their own mini-bubble, plus with hardly any other students around this is attainable. They head to Las Vegas on Jan. 8 and there is a whole lot of testing going on and after a few days start playing games on Monday, Jan. 11, we would assume with the campus bubble and getting to Las Vegas as its own team just a few days would be needed to be quarantined.
Teams could play five games every two weeks, which is one more than they do right now. That would allow for a 10-week season for a 20-game Mountain West season. That would end the regular season on March 20.
The next question is if there is a need for a conference tournament. Money could come into play and be the deciding factor. If there is a conference tournament, the teams are already in Las Vegas and everything can be played at the Thomas & Mack Center as usual. Those games could do the typical Wednesday through Saturday schedule with the title game on March 27.
This clearly would push March Madness to begin well into April and possibly May. Now, a conference tournament may not be required but if money is to be recouped a league tournament is necessary.
This also would mean that the rest of college basketball needs to have a fairly similar schedule to be done.
Another option would be a split bubble where there are two locations at the same time with half of the league in one and half in another. This would just allow for a break and then rotate teams into part two of a bubble.
NCAA Tournament Options
The most simple idea would be to have the entire tournament in one city over a month and Matt Norlander of CBS Sports mentions the Indianapolis area for these ideas as there are multiple colleges, an NBA arena plus enough large high school gyms to make it happen.
This idea would keep every team in one central location and possibly condense the entire tournament. The first weekend could still be the typical Thursday through Sunday but the next rounds would not need to keep that same schedule with every team still at the tournament location. So, instead of the four weekends, the tournament could be done in about three.
The tournament also would have to have constant testing and before the tournament begins there would need to be a week or so of proper testing and isolation of teams to ensure March Madness goes off.
Also, with this timeline, the NCAA Tournament would be pushed back but that would be a minor inconvenience compared to no tournament and the loss of massive revenue for back-to-back tournaments.
This also would cost the teams a lot of money but the trade off would be worth it to have a full-fledged NCAA Tournament.
Hopefully, the NCAA side for college basketball can have a plan which is something that college football struggled to do, if at all.