Duke basketball: How ACC can create bubble to pull off CBB season

Duke basketball at ACC Tournament (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Duke basketball at ACC Tournament (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

An ACC bubble may be the way for a Duke basketball season to take place.

The NBA has had tremendous success with its bubble in Orlando. So far, there have been zero positive COVID-19 tests. The league has done a great job instituting strict safety protocols to ensure the safety of players (including more than a dozen of the Duke basketball variety), coaches, and media.

If the NBA can do it, there is no reason the ACC and other major conferences cannot.

The NBA has more money and resources. But the ACC certainly has no shortage of money and resources. The ACC can find one central location (bubble) where all the teams, media members, and other staffers can reside. One reason this could work is that most universities are switching to distance learning anyways. The players will still have the opportunity to attend virtual classes and complete their assigned work in the bubble.

The argument could be made that having one central location for all players could result in a better educational experience than one they could get on their own. Each school could bring a few people from academic support to offer in-person tutoring to all players. This is a resource that student-athletes would not be able to take advantage of if they were participating in distance learning back at home.

The central location or “bubble” would obviously reduce the need for transportation. In the ACC, schools are spread out all over the place. It can be reasonably concluded that less travel would result in less risk of catching or spreading the virus. Just like the NBA, the ACC could instill serious consequences for leaving the bubble. If a player or coach leaves the bubble unauthorized or without a valid reason, that player/coach would have to serve an automatic two-game suspension without the ability to appeal.

If a player or coach were to contract COVID-19 somehow, that person would be forced to quarantine for at least two weeks, and just like how it is in the MLB, that person would have to get two negative test results before taking the court again.

When looking at possible bubble locations, North Carolina seems to make the most sense. The ACC already has four teams located within the state (Duke, UNC, NC State, and Wake Forrest).

What also makes North Carolina a prime destination is all of its arenas. The ACC could utilize the Greensboro Coliseum, Cameron Indoor Stadium (Duke basketball), Dean E. Smith Center (UNC), PNC Arena (NC State), and Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum (Wake Forest). The farthest any team would have to travel for a game is only a little over an hour and a half (Raleigh to Winston-Salem). The four in-state schools would not have an advantage since it’s likely no fans will be allowed into the games.

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The ACC would certainly have plenty of options in terms of venues. In terms of scheduling, the ACC could adopt a similar schedule to what the Big 12 does. The Big 12 plays a round-robin schedule where every team plays each other twice. Since the ACC has 15 teams, it would allow for each team to play 28 conference games. Almost a full season. The ACC could invite other local schools like Elon, NC Central, or UNC Greensboro to add in a few non-conference games for each team.

The ACC has some of the most prestigious schools with some of the brightest minds. The conference needs to take advantage of this when trying to implement proper safety protocols.

Public health professors and thoughtful leaders from these schools should be consulted on the necessary precautions and rules to ensure the safety of players, coaches, staff, and media. Just like we see in the NBA bubble, each person should have his or her own room, be required to wear a mask at all times, and conduct routine testing. Food and other necessities can be delivered to each room at designated times.

A final plea for the return of Duke basketball (and other ideas)

We have already seen both the Big Ten and Pac-12 cancel their sports for the remainder of the fall season. It doesn’t have to be that way with ACC basketball and college hoops in general. Every major conference has the ability to set up a bubble for their teams and instill a round-robin schedule, where each team faces each other twice in the regular season. Just like in any normal season, conference tournament seeding will be decided by regular-season results.

I understand that we are still in a global pandemic and getting ACC basketball back is not the main priority. However, having a college basketball season will be extraordinarily beneficial for the players, coaches, media members, fans, students, and everyone.

College sports give people a reason to stay inside and sit on the couch. The fewer people we have going out in public, the less likely the disease can spread. During a time where nothing is normal, having college hoops would bring back a little bit of normalcy.

Please feel free to respond with any reasons why this wouldn’t work or how this could be improved.

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