The college basketball season is scheduled to (belatedly) tip off on November 25 and all eyes were set to be turned to Orlando where 10 different multi-team events (MTE) owned by ESPN where planned to be hosted. In a report by The Athletic’s Seth Davis, ESPN is abandoning the Orlando Bubble, as it has come to be known, in light of significant issues in reaching a consensus health protocol and aligning the varying interests and requirements of more than 24 schools who were supposed to participate.
Gonzaga, of course, was one of the schools scheduled to head to the Orlando Bubble. The Zags were slated to play Auburn and then one of Texas Tech/Houston in a second game, before concluding with Tennessee. The Tennessee game may still be in the cards at a different location, as it was a game created through the Jimmy V Invitational and Rick Barnes still seems to be open to making it happen, but Gonzaga will need to scramble if it wants to come up with alternatives for the two preceding games.
On Zoom call with reporters, Rick Barnes said the neutral-site game against Memphis likely won't happen.#Vols tried to work something out with Wisconsin, but it didn't work.— @GrantRamey (@GrantRamey) October 21, 2020
Still working with Gonzaga to make the Jimmy V Classic game happen.
Since the Zags were already planning to head to Indianapolis after Orlando to play Baylor on December 5 in a neutral site contest, the Hoosier state may be where the Tennessee game ultimately happens.
Sources: Indianapolis has emerged as the early favorite to host both the Champions Classic and the Jimmy V Classic.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) October 26, 2020
According to Davis’s report, the main issue with the Orlando Bubble came down to testing protocols:
The plans broke down mainly because ESPN was trying to abide by guidelines handed down by the Centers for Disease Control and the NCAA, which are more restrictive than the protocols many conferences are planning to implement. The biggest point of contention was ESPN’s desire to stick by the guideline stating that anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus must be re-tested after that person has been clear for 90 days. Several schools balked at the idea of retesting players that soon. “The 90-day testing protocol became the key sticking point,” Overby said. “Once we laid that out there were individual schools who couldn’t agree because their conference rules are more open-ended with respect to when you test someone again who has contracted the virus.”
An NCAA bubble with participants from differing conferences and with varying resources and budgets was also going to be difficult to pull off, so once again, Gonzaga and the rest of the college basketball world will be scrambling once again in 2020 to figure out how to properly piece a season together.
There has been some scuttlebutt, as of late, from college presidents suggesting conference play only. At the moment all signs point to the Zags continuing to forge ahead with a non-conference schedule. What that will look like, however, is a complete mystery.