Video games, Netflix and homework: Oklahoma is thriving amidst NCAA bubble protocols

While some players have been speaking out against the conditions in the NCAA Tournament Bubble, the Sooners seem to feel relaxed and right at home
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Not everyone is cut out for the bubble life.

Just as with the NBA Bubble last summer, collegiate athletes entering the NCAA Tournament Bubble have taken to social media to voice their displeasure for the protocols, the food, and the general feeling of imprisonment as players can’t leave their floor in the team hotel unless headed to practice.

The Oklahoma Sooners, however, have found themselves right at home since arriving in Indianapolis.

“It’s honestly been what the year’s been like. Really just staying in the room. Lot of similarities to the regular season,” senior guard Austin Reaves said in a video press conference on Wednesday. “We’ve really kind of been in isolation for the whole year, so it’s really not anything new.”

2021 NCAA Basketball Tournament

Brady Manek and Austin Reaves

Upon arrival to the bubble, players and staff had to isolate in their own rooms until they post two negative COVID results before getting cleared to rejoin the team.

For transfer guard Umoja Gibson, life in isolation isn’t all that different from his normal day-to-day.

“I (didn't) even realize we were quarantining at first, I was just in my room, I’m always in my room regardless.” Gibson said. “I wasn’t complaining about it, I’m just not a high maintenance guy.”

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To pass the time, Gibson said he usually plays video games or watches videos on YouTube.

Not one to get together a "Call of Duty: Warzone" squad, Gibson said he mainly sticks to "NBA 2K," generally playing as the Portland Trail Blazers or the Los Angeles Lakers.

“(Gibson’s) good at 2K man, he caught me off guard,” Elijah Harkless said with a smile. “I really got to play my best game to beat him, you know, he’s really good at 2K.

“I would say he’s got the title right now, but I’m gonna get it back from him.”

While Harkless identifies as a gamer himself, he’s much more likely to be found linking up with Reaves, Brady Manek and Blake Seacat playing some "Warzone."

“That’s our kind of four that we’ve been playing 'Warzone' with, you know, we have a great time,” Harkless said. “Any other school got any four that will play us, I think we’ll be at the top to that tier of college basketball players.”

Fun and games aside, Manek has been using his free time in the bubble to get some other work done.

“Well, I have a thing called 'school' that I do,” he said. “A lot of homework right now. This is the last week, is the eighth week of my first set of grad classes, so I got two finals this week that I’m doing. That’s about it at the moment. I’ve tried to watch a little bit of Netflix, but I ain’t got any time to do that right now.”

All things considered, the Sooners said they haven’t been too bothered by the safety protocols surrounding the tournament, and are just ready to take the floor on Saturday evening against the Missouri Tigers.

“This is a way that we could play the NCAA Tournament, so you don’t have any complaints from me. As long as we’re getting to play, that’s all that really matters,” Reaves said. “I know that everybody here is waiting to play, ready to play, so it’s really just focusing day by day to get better and see what you can do to be successful.”