Report: Multiple College Basketball Events to Be Moved to Orlando Amid COVID-19
ESPN is reportedly planning to move several college basketball events to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, during the 2020-21 season.
According to ESPN's Jeff Borzello, at least eight of the 10 nonconference events ESPN is planning to hold in November and December will be moved to Orlando.
Those events are: The Champions Classic, Charleston Classic, Myrtle Beach Invitational, NIT Season Tip-Off, Wooden Legacy, Orlando Invitational, Jimmy V Classic and Diamond Head Classic.
Given the success of the NBA bubble in Orlando amid the COVID-19 pandemic, ESPN and the NCAA are apparently set to follow in the NBA's footsteps for at least the opening portion of the season.
The 2020-21 college basketball season is set to begin Nov. 25, and the ESPN events that are reportedly getting moved to Orlando will occur over the first two weeks of the season, per Borzello.
Many of the top college basketball programs will be part of those events in the Orlando bubble, including Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State, Gonzaga and Baylor, among others.
Borzello noted that the current plan is for the teams that were originally scheduled to take part in the ESPN events to be the only teams invited, although that could change if the Pac-12 and Ivy League are unable to participate, as those conferences are in flux regarding whether they intend to start their basketball seasons in November.
One possible wrinkle that could play out in the bubble could be teams participating in different events facing each other in nonconference games if they already agreed to do so at some point this season. Borzello pointed out that Gonzaga and Baylor would fit that criterion.
Aside from the ESPN events, nonconference games are expected to be played in various bubbles across the country in November and December. According to Borzello, Las Vegas, Indianapolis and Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut, are potential locations.
The 2019-20 college basketball season was cut short because of COVID-19, as the ongoing conference tournaments were canceled, as was the NCAA tournament for both men's and women's basketball.
In the wake of those cancellations, the NBA went to work on formulating a plan for its return to play, and the Orlando bubble worked wonders, as no players have tested positive for COVID-19 in the nearly two months since the season resumed.
A singular bubble isn't possible in college basketball because of the sheer number of teams, but a bubble system with several of them across the country may be the best way to get the 2020-21 season off and running until conference play begins.
Transitioning out of the bubble will come with risks, though, as evidenced by several college football teams reporting positive COVID-19 tests in the few weeks since their seasons began.