Louisville hoops among those planning nonconference bubbles

Louisville is planning a nonconference bubble between Nov. 25 and Dec. 5, coach Chris Mack tweeted on Friday.

According to Mack's tweet, the Cardinals are looking for eight to 12 teams to play three to five games during that time span. The teams would stay for free at a local hotel, sources told ESPN, while testing costs would be split evenly among the teams participating.

The expectation is the field will be filled with mostly local teams that can bus to Louisville. Mack mentioned in a Zoom call on Thursday that Bellarmine was one of the potential schools.

Other schools within driving distance of Louisville include Eastern Kentucky, Western Kentucky, Miami (Ohio), Ohio University and Cincinnati, among others.

The NCAA Division I Council announced Wednesday that the season's start date will be delayed until Nov. 25, while the men's and women's committees recommended that each school play at least four nonconference games.

The Big Sky, West Coast Conference, Western Athletic Conference, The Big West and the Mountain West have all had conversations in recent weeks about forming a nonconference men's basketball bubble in Las Vegas.

Tom Wistrcill, the Big Sky's commissioner, said league officials hope an event, one of multiple options being considered, will help teams find nonconference games to complete their schedules. He said coaches in his conference are "scrambling" to reschedule nonconference opportunities that often come with paydays that are critical to the overall budgets of non-Power Five programs after the NCAA announced a Nov. 25 start date for college basketball earlier this week. The Las Vegas option would allow those schools to compete prior to conference play.

"We want to have some options," he said. "We're looking hard at those."

Wistrcill said he hopes the Pac-12, if it decides to reverse its decision to play basketball in January, might decide to join the West Coast bubble in Las Vegas. He said conversations have also included Spokane, Washington, as a possible location for a bubble.

The costs and logistics attached to testing, however, remain a challenge for mid-major leagues. Wistrcill said Dan Gavitt, the NCAA's senior vice president of men's basketball, told commissioners to aim for at least three COVID-19 tests per person in any bubble environment during a conference call on Thursday.

Duke is also exploring the possibility of hosting its own nonconference event, sources told ESPN.

"We're still in the process of evaluating schedule options for this coming season," a Duke spokesperson told ESPN.

CBSSports.com first reported that Duke was trying to build its own nonconference event.

In addition to the possible bubble in Louisville, Midwest schools may have a bubble in Indianapolis as an option after the Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning Indianapolis' convention center exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. president Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

"The interest has been high," Vaughn said. "I think as conferences figure out what conference and nonconference schedules are going to look like, we're a very good option for folks. I would tell you we've had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it's really kind of all over the Division I spectrum."

Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indianapolis.

"It's not going to hurt," Vaughn said. "I can tell you all the planning we're doing right now is the same for a Final Four that's been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done."

ESPN's Myron Medcalf and The Associated Press contributed to this report.