College basketball seasons may be saved by plans for bubbles in big cities

Organizers for MTEs line up to try and get huge events done in Las Vegas, Indianapolis and more.

College basketball’s scheduling infrastructure is a mess at the moment.  If you’re curious about who your school of choice is going to play and when, know this: league schedules have never affected nonconference play more than right now. 

Only one conference, the MAAC, had the foresight to not only advance-plan for exactly when it will hold its men’s and women’s basketball games this season — it’s already published the thing. 

Many league sources told CBS Sports they’re strongly considering playing a minimum of two conference games in December in order to create more wiggle room if necessary at the end of the season. There’s also no shortage of leagues that will play 20 conference games. Because of that, it’s put some nonconference scheduling into a hurried holding pattern. Fortunately, there is no shortage of people trying to salvage the structure of the season, specifically nonleague play. 

We now know the target date. The NCAA Division I Council voted Nov. 25 to be opening day. NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said that date is “aspirational.” But whatever adjective you want to attach to it, everyone is now off to the races and banking on Nov. 25 while attempting to figure out what games to play, how to play them and, most important of all, where to play them.

Which brings us to a central issue facing the sport this week: multi-team events (MTEs) and the organizations that host them. Seventeen events were scheduled pre-Nov. 25 and now they will either be rescheduled or canceled. CBS Sports previously revealed an initial pitch on behalf of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, in coordination with Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun resort and casino, to host dozens of teams for nonconference play in November and December. Some of those matchups are proceeding as planned, with additional inventory being allowed for teams that may want or need only one or two games inside the Mohegan Sun bubble. 

Connecticut is one of many destinations. Sources told CBS Sports that ESPN is dutifully on its way to fleshing out a schedule for an Orlando bubble, hosting dozens of teams in November and December in events such as the Champions Classic, the Wooden Legacy, the Jimmy V Classic, the Myrtle Beach Invitational and plenty more. 

Arguably just as big: other MTE organizers and leagues are in talks to figure out solutions for nonconference — and even potentially conference games — that could be held in a controlled environment. Cities such as: Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Asheville, North Carolina; Rock Hill, South Carolina; Louisville; Houston; Indianapolis; and Las Vegas are gaining traction. Las Vegas and Indianapolis pose perhaps the two most intriguing prospects.