As what is sure to be an unprecedented college basketball season approaches, many programs are still scrambling, with more than 50 percent of programs yet to release a schedule for the 2020-21 campaign.
One venue, however, managed to position itself to host 45 games over an 11-day period to start the college basketball season, becoming something of a hub for the season tip-off.
CBS Sports reports that the Mohegan Sun resort casino, located on protected tribal land in Connecticut, will host some 40 men’s and women’s programs from the period of Nov. 25 to Dec. 5, both for multi-team events and single games. The packed schedule has earned the resort the nickname “Bubbleville,” harkening to the bubble approach the NBA took when it resumed its season at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Several high-profile programs will be participating in events there, including nationally ranked teams such as Baylor, Villanova and Virginia.
The concept came together over months of work on behalf of the Mohegan Sun, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Gazelle Group — which organizes several college basketball events such as the CBI and the 2K Empire Classic. CBS Sports reports that organizers pitched the venue to nearly 125 programs, who in turn reflected the uncertainty of the times by committing, de-committing, recommitting and full-on backing out. Still, the facility will become the center of the college basketball universe when the season tips off.
"I visited Mohegan Sun in early August and was impressed with the facility and with (Mohegan Sun marketing chief) Dave Martinelli's approach to including us," Gazelle Group CEO Rick Giles told CBS Sports. "As we both began speaking with teams, the level of interest and the complexity of the logistics kept growing. Keep in mind this will not only be the largest single-site college basketball event of the season, but also probably the largest single site college basketball event in history."
Due to its position on tribal lands, the Mohegan Sun is exempt from certain restrictions at the statewide level, and has its own health and emergency services departments. Still, the reality of the pandemic is not lost on organizers, who plan on ensuring a safe environment.
CBS Sports reports that a rigorous testing protocol will be administered, and hotel security staff will be present to ensure safety measures when the teams aren’t playing. Staff, TV production crews and officials will be located on isolated floors, and be granted special back-of-house access to the arena. Arriving teams will be subject to immediate PCR testing.
"We will be jumping right into the fire right away," Hall of Fame vice president of basketball operations Greg Procino told CBS Sports. "There is clearly no playbook here for this event. Nothing has been done like this in college basketball previously. We have to trust our instincts as a group to make the best decisions."