Dreaming Up Orlando Bubble Possibilities For Virginia

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Virginia won the 2019 National Championship.
Kihei Clark and Virginia are scheduled for the Wooden Legacy event, which could move to Orlando per reports. ~ Mike Ingalls

For college basketball fans – including Virginia fans, for certain – starved for news, some long-awaited morsels finally dropped this week. The biggest: the season’s first contest date has been set for Wednesday, Nov. 25, a two-week delay from the original Nov. 10 plan prior to the ongoing pandemic.

The NCAA Division I Council announced Thursday several items related to the new start date:

  • No closed scrimmages or exhibition games allowed.
  • Maximum number of contests reduced by four games. Teams will be allowed 24 regular season games plus one multiple-team event that includes up to three games.
  • Minimum number of contests reduced to 13 games and all 13 must be Division I opponents for NCAA Championship consideration.
  • The Division I Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee recommended teams play a minimum of four non-conference games.
  • Preseason practices may begin on Wednesday, Oct. 14 with 42 days to conduct 30 practices. (Players can work out up to 20 hours per week up to four hours per day with one day off per week required.)
  • Approved a transition period from Sept. 21 to Oct. 13 to allow preparation for preseason practice. (Players can work out up to 12 hours per week with an eight-hour limit on skill instruction with two days off per week required.)

Additional items of interest to UVA fans have trickled out as either anticipation or reaction to this news:

  • CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein reported that the ACC plans to play non-conference games this season.
  • Rothstein reported that Orlando is expected to host eight early season college basketball events, all of which are part of ESPN events (ESPN is owned by Disney and Orlando hosts Disney sports complex events regularly). That involves the Wooden Legacy event that includes Virginia.
  • Rothstein reported that “optimism continues to increase regarding the Pac 12’s likelihood of playing basketball before January 1,” which would allow UCLA to stay in the Wooden bracket.
  • CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander reported that Villanova coach Jay Wright said on a media conference call that he has “every intention in keeping Villanova’s game against Virginia” that is currently scheduled for Dec. 19 at Madison Square Garden.
  • Louisville’s Chris Mack told reporters that the ACC-Big Ten Challenge is planed to be played unless “something unforeseen happens.”

That’s a lot to digest even if it’s made up of morsels. Still, it’s welcomed news for those hoping to have college basketball back in action after the sport’s postseason was wiped out in March.

Dialing this down to Virginia and the ACC, the schedule news is interesting. If the conference stays with its expanded 20-game model, there will only be room for four non-conference games (not including the Wooden Legacy event), which would meet the suggested minimum. If the Villanova game stays on the schedule, it drops down to three possible games otherwise for the Hoos.

Of note, Rothstein’s article that reported the news on the Orlando events also noted that “additional games may also be added at a later date in an effort to give the programs in Orlando opportunities to expand their respective non-conference inventory.” This opens up the possibility of a bubble in Orlando (that’s been in the rumor mill for a little while now) that could begin around Thanksgiving and the now announced Nov. 25 start date. In theory, particularly for states where fans are not allowed (and they won’t be allowed at the Orlando events either), conferences could even elect to play some of their league games in the bubble or the ACC-Big Ten Challenge game.

Let’s look at what some possibilities for UVA could be in this type of scenario.

First, the teams scheduled to appear in the various ESPN events that Rothstein reported are moving to Orlando are (teams with an * were scheduled for two of the events, but the NCAA announcement Thursday indicated that only one multi-team event would be allowed):

  • Champions Classic: Duke, Kansas*, Kentucky, Michigan State*
  • Jimmy V Classic: Baylor, Gonzaga*, Rutgers, Tennessee*
  • Preseason NIT: Arizona, Cincinnati, St. John’s, Texas Tech
  • Orlando Invitational: Auburn, Belmont, Boise State, Gonzaga*, Michigan State*, Saint Louis, Siena, Xavier
  • Myrtle Beach Invitational: Charlotte, Dayton, Furman, Loyola-Chicago, Missouri, Nebraska, Pittsburgh, Utah State
  • Charleston Classic: Charleston, Florida State, Houston, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Seton Hall, Tennessee*, VCU
  • Wooden Legacy: Georgetown, Kansas*, UCLA, Virginia
  • Diamond Head Classic: Arizona State, Hawaii, North Texas, Oklahoma, Saint Mary’s, San Diego State, Seattle, Temple

First, let’s assume that the Orlando bubble runs for approximately one month from Nov. 25 to Dec. 23. That allows for four weeks of games, which could get teams up to 12 games if they play three times a week. The Hoos wouldn’t hit that mark because the Wooden Classic only has four teams so two games there instead of three and they have the non-con game on the books already with Villanova. Let’s assume that each of these events stays in a format that would have all of those games played in the first week. Rothstein also reported, that the ACC will play two of its conference games in December so let’s put two of those games in this bubble too.

Dreaming up a Wahoo bubble schedule with these teams and parameters for fun:

  • Friday, Nov. 27 and Saturday, Nov. 28 – Wooden Classic games against Kansas, UCLA, or Georgetown.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 1 – Michigan State (ACC-Big Ten Challenge; Florida State-Nebraska, Pitt-Rutgers, Duke-Penn State could be played in this bubble too)
  • Friday, Dec. 4 – Texas Tech
  • Monday, Dec. 7 – Pittsburgh (UVA “road” conference game)
  • Thursday, Dec. 10 – Florida State (UVA “home” conference game)
  • Wednesday, Dec. 16 – Furman

Assuming the teams in Orlando would be tested regularly and in some sort of bubble, the Cavaliers could then stay in Orlando on that Thursday before flying up to New York for the currently scheduled Villanova game at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Dec. 19. If the Nova game got axed, the Hoos cold stay in Orlando for a final non-conference game that weekend.

Obviously, you could move any of the non-conference teams in the bubble into a schedule spot. This fictional schedule gives you the often-wanted matchup with the Spartans (plus the Hauser brothers game that fans repeatedly have joked about TV wanting) and a rematch between the two most recent national title game participants. (Check out the end of this article for four other fictional combinations and put your own on the men’s basketball message board here; all include a shorter than normal exam break of six days from Dec. 10-Dec. 16).

This type of set-up could send the Wahoos into a brief holiday break after a month in a bubble prior to being retested for a post-holiday restart. They would have played nine games and all four of the non-conference contests to complete one-third of the season’s 27-game schedule.

With ACC contests only remaining at that point, the conference could set its official protocols for non-bubble games similar to the football outline currently. The conference could schedule two games a week for nine weeks from Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020 to Wednesday, March 3, 2021 or start a week later and play a couple of three-game weeks instead. That leaves approximately a two-week buffer before what would be the normal starting point for the NCAA Tournament. That space allows for any make-up games to be held or for a conference tournament if the league still tries to hold one this season.

More Bubble Dreaming

Fictional Schedule 2

  • Friday, Nov. 27 and Saturday, Nov. 28 – Wooden Classic games against Kansas, UCLA, or Georgetown.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 1 – Nebraska (ACC-Big Ten Challenge)
  • Friday, Dec. 4 – Missouri
  • Monday, Dec. 7 – Duke (UVA “road” conference game)
  • Thursday, Dec. 10 – Florida State (UVA “home” conference game)
  • Wednesday, Dec. 16 – North Texas

Fictional Schedule 3

  • Friday, Nov. 27 and Saturday, Nov. 28 – Wooden Classic games against Kansas, UCLA, or Georgetown.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 1 – Rutgers (ACC-Big Ten Challenge)
  • Friday, Dec. 4 – Arizona
  • Monday, Dec. 7 – Duke (UVA “road” conference game)
  • Thursday, Dec. 10 – Pittsburgh (UVA “home” conference game)
  • Wednesday, Dec. 16 – Charleston

Fictional Schedule 4

  • Friday, Nov. 27 and Saturday, Nov. 28 – Wooden Classic games against Kansas, UCLA, or Georgetown.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 1 – Penn State (ACC-Big Ten Challenge)
  • Friday, Dec. 4 – Baylor
  • Monday, Dec. 7 – Florida State (UVA “road” conference game)
  • Thursday, Dec. 10 – Pittsburgh (UVA “home” conference game)
  • Wednesday, Dec. 16 – Temple

Fictional Schedule 5

  • Friday, Nov. 27 and Saturday, Nov. 28 – Wooden Classic games against Kansas, UCLA, or Georgetown.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 1 – Nebraska (ACC-Big Ten Challenge)
  • Friday, Dec. 4 – Gonzaga
  • Monday, Dec. 7 – Pittsburgh (UVA “road” conference game)
  • Thursday, Dec. 10 – Florida State (UVA “home” conference game)
  • Wednesday, Dec. 16 – Loyola-Chicago
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