The NBA, WNBA and NHL have found success playing in a bubble format amid the coronavirus pandemic, and Kentucky coach John Calipari thinks college basketball should consider the same idea for the postseason.
"We can play the NCAA tournament in a bubble," Calipari said on ESPN Radio’s The Intersection Thursday night. "Instead of it being weeks on weeks long, maybe it's short. You lose, you're out of the bubble. You go home."
NCAA president Mark Emmert first mentioned the idea of college sports being played in a bubble or "semi-bubble" when he announced Thursday that there will be no fall championships in 2020 for all NCAA Division I sports. The NCAA does not govern FBS college football, leaving its immediate future still uncertain.
Emmert revealed the NCAA has discussed playing fall sports in early 2021 in isolated formats. However, the priority will be to ensure that winter and spring sports can be played as planned, especially in light of last season's championship cancellations.
“We have to give highest priority to the winter and spring sports, because they lost their championships last March. We made that horrible, awful but necessary choice to shut down," Emmert said. "...But then, when we look at it, if we modify the model, which we need to do anyway because of the virus, if we shrink the bracket sizes and do everything in predetermined sites instead of running kids around the country—move to bubble or semi-bubble models—there's a way to do it. Will it be normal? Of course not…but is it doable? Yeah."
The NCAA canceled March Madness this spring in the wake of the pandemic, devastating players, coaches and fans. By playing in a bubble, college basketball could attempt to avoid the same fate in 2021.
The NBA and WNBA have not had a single player test positive for the coronavirus within the bubble. Calipari praised the leagues for how the arrangement has worked.
“The thing that's happened for all of us in basketball is the NBA and the WNBA have shown a path for us to have a season."