Mountain West Basketball: Commissioner Like Others Considering Conference Play In A Bubble
With the upcoming 2020-2021 college basketball season posing serious logistical threats, no idea is off the table, especially playing in a bubble.
Craig Thompson isn’t the only commissioner considering playing out conference play in a bubble, but will he be the first to make it happen?
Well, we are almost there folks. November 25th, the anticipated start date of college basketball nationwide is now less than a month away. But as conferences publish their schedules, some non-conference games are announced and media days begin through virtual means, there is also a harsher reality to try and pull this thing off going on parallel to the good news we see weekly.
Practices and activities are being suspended due to positive cases as close to home as Fresno State, multi-team bubble events are being canceled in due to conflicting covid-19 protocols and some teams have even gone as far to announce their intent to play a conference only slate.
Maryland Eastern Shore has decided to only play conference games this season, head coach Jason Crafton told @Stadium.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) October 25, 2020
Things aren’t looking good at the moment, with scheduling already a logistical nightmare only twenty-seven days away from the start of the season, conference and university leaders have to prepare for the potential cancellation of games and use of a bubble in order to complete the season. Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson admits “it’s in our back pocket”.
Thompson points to the West Coast Conference bubble model as a probable example, which would also potentially take place in Las Vegas, same as the Mountain West.
The WCC’s idea is to play out their scheduled 16-game conference slate in two increments. Flying out all ten teams to Las Vegas for two and a half weeks, filled with eight games per team. Followed up with a return to campuses throughout the conference for a couple of weeks without games and then back to Las Vegas for the second half of the proposed schedule.
But like most theoretical ideas surrounding playing sports at the moment, an idea can have full support (which Gonzaga AD Mike Roth said it does), but until fully worked out, planned and cost calculated it shouldn’t be relied on, as we saw in Orlando earlier this month.
The Mountain West’s idea of bubble play seems like more of a worst-case scenario as of right now. Like other conferences around the country, folks are hoping their newly published covid-19 friendly schedules can be adhered to while recognizing that plans are being changed daily, so flexibility and back up plans are a must.
For now, it seems the conference would use a bubble in the event teams continue to register positive cases, which in turn would cause games to be postponed or at worst canceled.
“Hey, look, we’re just not getting games in, so let’s bring six teams to a particular city and get two or three games in,” said Thompson.
A key detail would be creating smaller more regional bubbles that would feature one group of teams in Las Vegas and the other group in say Colorado Springs.
Aside from the cost associated with a sudden switch to bubble play mid-season, like say extra hotel room stays. A big part of the decision will be made by the conferences TV partners, CBS and Fox who would have to switch things up themselves and prepare to broadcast these games from a single location for a couple of weeks instead of hopping around from city to city.
Still, this is just another logistical monster for conferences and schools to tackle during this time. As basketball has totally different travel requirements than football, in terms of the frequency of games played, the size of groups traveling and how they travel. Where football can charter flights, basketball teams fly commercial, and given the rise of cases in nearly every state in the country at the moment, creating regional bubbles where teams could travel by solitary means like a chartered bus may be the answer.
But before any concrete plans can be made, entire schedules need to be finalized. The conference schedule was officially announced back on October 9th, but teams have found it hard to schedule non-conference matchups. With most attempting to keep a more in-state or regional focus.
Others like San Diego State, Boise State and Utah State fell victim to ambitious non-conference MTE bubble event participation, which was canceled with most involved now tasked with filling holes in their non-conference schedule and in a vulnerable spot.
So while we wait for some clarity on the situation and maybe hear more concrete plans regarding non-conference bubbles out west, the countdown continues to Thanksgiving week.