The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced on October 16 that it will team up with US-based event producer Gazelle Group to organize multiple college basketball games at Mohegan Sun Arena from November 25 to December 4.
The resort casino, located on tribal land in Connecticut, hosts the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Men’s Tip-Off Tournament and Women’s Challenge every year and will provide a controlled environment for 30 college basketball teams and staff, following NCAA, tribal, and government safety protocols for Covid-19.
Mohegan Provides Safe Bubble
The event is part of a large effort from organizers to relocate games and championships canceled due to the pandemic.
The Mohegan Sun will ensure teams play in safe conditions, and will provide medical staff and facilities in case someone tests positive to Covid-19 and needs to be isolated.
Each team will be tested upon arrival and will have access to a reserved floor with bedrooms, dining areas, and meeting spaces. They will access Mohegan Sun’s 125,000-square-foot exposition center, converted into a practice facility, through closed corridors to avoid interaction with the public.
Almost Business as Usual
However, organizers do not plan to allow fans at the games, but might authorize a limited number of people if metrics show it is safe to do so. Media and press will watch the games from skyboxes and post-game news conferences will be done through teleconference.
“The Hall of Fame Women’s Challenge has been held at Mohegan Sun Arena for many years in front of the tremendous UConn fanbase. While COVID-19 has forced us to reassess many events and safety protocols, we are proud to still be hosting these four outstanding teams in a world-class venue,” said John L. Doleva, President and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame. “We thank Mohegan Sun for their partnership and their diligence to produce this tournament in a bubble-like atmosphere.”
Gazelle Group President Rick Giles said they expect about 35 teams to take part in the events in “Bubbleville”, with up to seven games per day. The games will take place in the 10,000-seat arena, which is owned by the Mohegan Tribe and will provide enough space for social distancing, according to Greg Procino, vice president of basketball operations for the Hall of Fame.
“We’ve been able to combine and leverage both our organizations and strengths to create something bigger than what we originally had,” Mr Giles said. “I don’t know if either organization individually could have pulled off what we’re about to do next month.”
Many Teams to Be Expected
The Empire Classic will mark the start of the events on November 25, for a two-day competition including Villanova, Baylor, Arizona State, and Boston College.
More teams are to be expected, such as UConn, USC, Virginia, Florida, St. John’s, UMass, Vanderbilt, BYU, Louisville, or North Carolina State.
The Hall of Fame also presented a revised schedule for its Tip-Off Tournament, which was originally supposed to start on November 21. The two participating brackets are now split into separate events.
The Naismith bracket will play on November 28 and 29 and will feature South Florida, Temple, Rhode Island, and Virginia Tech. Drexel will replace Lehigh in the Springfield bracket and will play on December 3 and 4 with UAlbany, LIU, and Quinnipiac.