If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that rules were made to be broken and that plans were made to be changed.
The basketball world learned that this year when the NCAA Tournament was canceled and the NBA went on hiatus before restarting in the bubble. But given a world in which COVID-19 is as active as it’s ever been, what’s the plan going forward to play an indoor game full of close contact?
This week, ESPN announced it had scrapped plans for an Orlando college hoops bubble featuring eight preseason events, headlined by The Champions Classic, NIT Season Tip-Off, and Jimmy V Classic, that won’t be taking place until the 2021-2022 season.
The Champions Classic annually serves as the de facto kickoff event for the sport, as this year’s version was going to feature matchups between Michigan State/Duke and Kansas/Kentucky. The news comes on the back of Bethune-Cookman University announcing that they’re opting out of sports for the entire 2020-2021 school year. The move by the HBCU is similar to the one that Morehouse College made back in June when it became one of the first schools to opt out of all fall sports.
The NBA and WNBA proved that a bubble can work, as both leagues made it through their time in Florida without a single positive test. Baseball figured out its early season kinks, as it’s been smooth sailing during the postseason. But, as you can see, life without a bubble is proving to be quite troublesome for football. The NFL is rescheduling games every week, at least 34 college football games have been canceled or rescheduled, and Wisconsin’s entire quarterback room was almost wiped out by COVID.
So far, college basketball doesn’t have a bubble set up. No one knows just how this is going to work. And it’s not like they can look to the NBA as a guide anymore.
Asked earlier this month about the NBA’s desire to play in home markets next season, Adam Silver told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols: “It’s a bit premature to make decisions for us yet.”
“As Dr. Fauci says, the virus will decide,” Silver said. “If there truly is a second wave, things like that could push us back. We’re also very mindful that while it’s fantastic what’s happened in this bubble, we love our fans and want to bring them back into the arena and we want to do it safely. So if there are advancements right on the horizon. That will be a reason to wait.”
Recent reports have the NBA mulling a shortened season tipping off days before Christmas. There are also discussions about a 72-game season, a play-in playoff tournament, the cancellation of All-Star Weekend, and a two-week break during the middle of the season — meaning the playoffs would conclude right before the 2021 Summer Olympics, if those are even still happening.
But we still don’t know whether those proposals involve a bubble, a detail that must be figured out, especially for the Toronto Raptors. With a COVID travel ban to Canada, the Raptors would have to figure out where to play their home games next season with no bubble. We saw the same thing happen to the Blue Jays, who had to play in Buffalo, while Toronto FC played soccer in Connecticut.
And if you’re wondering about the NBA’s G-League, there have been rumors about canceling their season outright.
It’s as if basketball has finally joined us in a game we’ve all been playing since March.
It’s called the wait-and-see game.