Texas Tech basketball: College hoops bubble idea gaining momentum

The idea of playing the 2020-21 season in a bubble is picking up steam but that would potentially rob Texas Tech fans of a special opportunity.

There’s no question that Texas Tech basketball fans have massive expectations for the 2020-21 season.  But the painful reality is that we may not get to enjoy that ride in person.

In recent weeks, the idea of playing the college basketball season in a bubble has gained serious traction.  The idea is being based on the success that the NBA and NHL are having as they conclude their seasons in a controlled environment where games are played at one location in front of no fans and where players are not permitted to leave the bubble.

The difference in the NCAA and the professional ranks is that the athletes are also students.  But this school year is going to be predominantly virtual across the nation making it possible for the Red Raiders to play games in a bubble in someplace like Kansas City while completing their course requirements.

“We need to be creative, we need to put everything on the table and figure out how to make things work if it’s at all possible,” Michigan State AD Bill Beekman said on Thursday in a videoconference with reporters.  “Maybe not at the level that the NBA is at, but some sort of an environment that is sort of ‘bubble-like’ may be viable, and may be more viable at a time like this than it would have been at other times when almost all of our classes would be in person.”

Of course, putting college basketball teams in a bubble situation would address one of the greatest concerns that people around the nation have about the fall, the return of students to college campuses.  Many believe that there will be a spike on COVID-19 cases as students begin to come back to school and fraternize with one another.

Though there will be fewer in-person courses taught, there will still be many schools around the nation that will have face-to-face instruction and that could increase the chances of an outbreak among a college community.  What’s more, we all know that keeping college students from socializing is about as likely as keeping water from being wet.

Thus, taking basketball teams out of such potentially high-risk situations could be a popular course of action should the details be worked out.  NCAA President Mark Emmert seems to be open to that very plan.

“If we need to do a bubble model and that’s the only way we can do it, then we’ll figure that out,” Emmert said.

However, others aren’t so keen on the idea.  That includes a high-profile athletic director and a conference commissioner. In June, Michigan AD Warde Manuel was adamant that his student-athletes would not be forced to live in a bubble.

“But I can tell you: We will not isolate our student-athletes and put them in a hotel and keep them there,” Manuel said in a video conference call with local reporters. “They’re not professionals. We won’t get into a situation where we are placing them into a hotel continuously to isolate them from their fellow students and whomever else. It’s just not in our plans. It’s not something we’re looking to do.

“So if that’s the only way that we have to proceed, then we will have to make other decisions.”

Meanwhile, PAC 12 commissioner Larry Scott echoed those sentiments.

“Unlike professional sports, college sports cannot operate in a bubble,”  Scott said Tuesday. “Our athletic programs are a part of broader campuses in communities where in many cases the prevalence of COVID-19 is significant.”

Still, there are some that believe the entire season should be played in a bubble, including the NCAA Tournament.  There is already one non-conference 20-team bubble idea being pitched to teams (though we do not know if Texas Tech has been contacted about participating) and some theorize the best way to have a conference season is to do so in a bubble that would last for two months.

In such a scenario, teams might be in a bubble for the first three weeks of December, during which time they could play ten games (Tech normally plays 11 non-con games prior to the start of Big 12 play) by playing every-other-day.  Being as most colleges are ending the fall semester before Thanksgiving, the December bubble would not interfere with any classwork or finals and would allow plenty of time for adequate COVID-19 testing.

Then, after the holidays teams would head to a bubble site for the months of January and February for conference play.  Tech plays 18 Big 12 games per year meaning that in the course of two months, they would play on average about once every three days to get the season over before March.

Then, proponents of this idea would like to see teams quarantined and tested for two weeks in March before heading to bubble sites for the NCAA Tournament.  It all seems to make some sense and should this idea become reality, at least it would give us a full season, unlike what we saw this spring.

However, Texas Tech fans would potentially be robbed of special opportunities in this scenario.  That’s because this could end up being a special Red Raider team, one that competes for the Big 12 and even the National Title.  It would be a shame for Red Raider fans to finally get to see Chris Beard and his team cut down the nets at the Final Four but only by watching on television and not in person.

Of course, we would take it for sure but it would be a huge disappointment to thousands of fans who would give anything to witness that in person.

Though the focus of the nation has been on the upcoming college football season and all the drama surrounding that, we must not lose sight of the fact that we are less than three months away from the scheduled start of college hoops.   And with the pandemic showing no signs of letting up, it appears like some type of changes will have to be made to the way basketball is played this season.

Thus, the bubble idea is one we should not discount.  But it will be a bittersweet pill to swallow if that is the way the powers that be decide to go.  Texas Tech basketball has never been more fun for fans to experience in person and having that opportunity taken away in a year when Beard will have as much talent on his roster as he’s ever had would only be yet another reason to curse COVID-19.