Becker Explains Possible “Bubble” Plan for College Hoops

One potential strategy for the resumption of college basketball
Published: Aug. 23, 2020 at 10:43 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Colleges around the country have canceled their Fall sports seasons, with just three of the five power conferences and a few other leagues the only ones still planning to play football, soccer, etc. The NCAA has even gone as far as canceling all of the championships they sponsor across all three divisions for the remainder of the calendar year. But understandably given the ever-changing nature of the COVID situation, very few colleges or conferences have addressed the Winter season yet.

The winter sports season obviously a big one for our local schools and the NCAA as a whole: there is a huge incentive to try and figure out a way to make it work, not only to give all the student athletes an opportunity to hone their skills and compete, but also from a financial perspective. The NCAA brought in just shy of $1 Billion from the Division One Men’s Basketball Tournament in 2019, and a second consecutive year without that source of revenue could prove catastrophic for the organization and member schools’ athletic departments.

There is of course one program in our area who has made a habit of qualifying for that tournament over the last two decades: the UVM men’s hoops team. Head Coach of the Hoopcats John Becker spoke with Mike McCune earlier this week to discuss, among other things, some of the ideas being tossed around to make a college basketball season work this Winter.

“I don’t know what the cost would be,” Becker pointed out. “But certainly if you look from a calendar perspective, if students are gonna go home after Thanksgiving and stay at home until the second semester starts February 1st...the whole months of December and January you could go somewhere and get into a bubble situation.”

Becker pointed out the success the NHL and NBA have seen with their isolated tournaments, and he believes that it could be feasible for college basketball conferences to institute something similar.

“Quarantine and practice for a week or two and then kinda play every other day or every third day like the NBA is and probably get the majority of a conference season together,” Becker said. “Maybe at the end of that, in Late January, have a conference tournament. And then whenever the NCAA Tournament happens, send that winner.”

Obviously there are a couple concerns to address with a plan that sends teams into “bubbles” with their conference opponents and hands out automatic bids in Late January for a tournament that is scheduled to begin in March.

“There could be a lag of a couple months there where how does a team stay sharp and all that kind of stuff?” Becker said. “I don’t know, that’s kind of one of those things that probably we’ll just have to deal with”

There would also still be the question of whether schools were able to play non-conference games at any point, typically a key factor in determining which 36 teams earn at-large berths into the 68-team field for March Madness.

The NCAA’s Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt issued a statement Monday saying that the organization will make a decision sometime in mid-September as to whether the college basketball season can proceed with its original schedule, which would see games begin November 10th. But if that’s not feasible, the bubble idea proposed by Becker and a few others in the college hoops landscape could potentially become a reality.

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