The Mohegan Sun is finalizing details that will bring as many as 40 college basketball teams into its “bubble” environment for nonconference games between Nov. 25 and Dec 5.
The UConn men and women, both of whom are committed to playing in multi-team events that have been scheduled or moved to Mohegan Sun, will be part of the plan, conceived as a way to save nonconference games amid the pandemic .
The Naismith Hall of Fame and the Gazelle Group, which run several of the early season tournaments, were the drivers of the nonconference bubble concept, which has been in the works for months.
“It’s an enormous undertaking,” said Greg Procino, VP of basketball operations for the Hall of Fame. “and it’s changing every day, but we have a lot of firm pieces. We expect 35-plus teams to play about 40 games.”
The UConn men will play in the Legends Classic, originally scheduled for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, on Dec. 2 and 3. Southern Cal, Vanderbilt and BYU, which replaced Notre Dame, are the other teams in that group. The UConn women will play in the Hall of Fame Showcase Nov. 28-29 with Quinnipiac, Maine and Mississippi State.
But with many other teams there, the UConn programs could schedule other games before leaving the property. For instance, the UConn women will play Louisville on Dec. 4, and a UConn men’s matchup with North Caroline State has been discussed for Dec. 5, once UConn and Florida resolve their game scheduled for Gainesville, Fla., Dec 6.
Teams in Mohegan’s “bubbleville” will decide how long they can afford to stay, and how many games they want to play. Teams involved in the Legends and Empire Classic (also moved from New York) and the Hall of Fame’s men’s and women’s events will all be in the bubble. Other teams will be coming in for separate nonconference games.
The NCAA has set Nov. 25 as the start date for the season, and is allowing teams to schedule up to 27 games. There could be as many as seven games per day at Mohegan Sun, some in the Expo Center.
“Some teams are playing four games, some teams are playing one game,” Procino said. “It’s a mixed bag.”
Meanwhile, UConn is working on its own plan for playing games at Gampel Pavilion starting Nov. 25, and Gov. Ned Lamont expressed confidence that the university would be able to manage COVID-19 risks.
“When it comes to UConn basketball, one of the things I think they’ve done really well is keep the teams in a bubble,” Lamont said. “They work together. They eat together. They study together. Given that, what you saw in the NBA is a similar program for all we can do at UConn. So I feel pretty confident that they’re able to manage their sports, including basketball, well.”
There could be a limited number of fans allowed at UConn, depending on which reopening phase the state is in. Parts of the state, now in