ESPN is planning to move at least eight of its men’s college basketball events to the ESPN Wide World of Sports property at Walt Disney World in Orlando, conference and team sources told ESPN.
ESPN runs 10 nonconference events in November and December, and at least eight of them are expected to take place in Orlando this year. The Champions Classic, Charleston Classic, Myrtle Beach Invitational, NIT Season Tip-Off, Wooden Legacy, Orlando Invitational, Jimmy V Classic and Diamond Head Classic are expected to move to Disney.
The ESPN Wide World of Sports has been the site of the NBA’s bubble, but different protocols are expected to be in place for college events, team sources told ESPN.
The events are expected to begin on Nov. 25, the new start date of the 2020-21 college basketball season, and run for the first two weeks of the season. Specific dates for the events are undetermined for now, but the Champions Classic — which annually takes place on the first night of the season — is more likely to occur during the second week of the proposed two-week window, team sources told ESPN. There will be events overlapping during those two weeks, with up to three games going on at once.
There is also the potential of “crossover” games, where teams from different events could play against one another outside of their scheduled event or game. One intriguing possibility would include Baylor and Gonzaga, two preseason national championship contenders who agreed in August to face each other in nonconference play this season. Both are scheduled to play in the Jimmy V Classic, but not against each other.
Sources have indicated that no new teams are being recruited to enter the bubble, with ESPN’s events expected to include the teams originally scheduled. However, forthcoming issues — including the scheduling uncertainty in the Pac-12 and Ivy League — could force event operators to revisit that thinking.
College basketball’s nonconference slate is likely to take place in “controlled environments” across the country in November and December. Mohegan Sun, Las Vegas and Indianapolis are expected to host a large number of teams and events inside bubbles, sources told ESPN, while the Maui Invitational is moving to Asheville, N.C. and the Battle 4 Atlantis is expected to be relocated to South Dakota. Potential nonconference bubbles in Houston and Atlanta have also been proposed, while Louisville, Duke and Kentucky are among the programs organizing their own multi-team event on campus.
Here are the ESPN events expected to move to Orlando:
• Champions Classic: Duke, Michigan State, Kansas, Kentucky
• Charleston Classic: Charleston, Florida State, Houston, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Seton Hall, Tennessee, VCU
• Myrtle Beach Invitational: Charlotte, Dayton, Loyola Chicago, Missouri, Nebraska, Penn, Pitt, Utah State
• NIT Season Tip-Off: Arizona, Cincinnati, St. John’s, Texas Tech
• Wooden Legacy: Georgetown, Kansas, UCLA, Virginia
• Orlando Invitational: Auburn, Belmont, Boise State, Gonzaga, Michigan State, Siena, Saint Louis, Xavier
• Jimmy V Classic: Gonzaga, Tennessee, Baylor, Rutgers
• Diamond Head Classic: Arizona State, Hawaii, North Texas, Oklahoma, San Diego State, Saint Mary’s, Seattle, Temple