Blue Bloods Converge On Bubbleville: What To Watch In NCAA Hoops Mega Event

Christyn Williams

A college basketball event unlike any other will take place Nov. 25 through December 4 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, as 40 men’s and women’s programs descend on the resort casino for a variety of games and tournaments known collectively as “Bubbleville”.

Bubbleville features six separate tournaments and nearly two dozen single-game contests, highlighted by three top-five teams for the men (Baylor, Villanova, and Virginia) and three in the top six for the women (UConn, Louisville, and Mississippi State).

Watch 2020 Bubbleville Live On FloHoops

A likely blue blood meeting between No. 3 UConn and sixth-ranked Mississippi State is the marquee matchup in the Hall of Fame Women’s Challenge (Nov. 28-29), which will transpire on Nov. 29 as long as the Huskies take care of Quinnipiac (Nov. 28, 12:30 PM on FloHoops) and MSU beats Maine (Nov. 28, 10:00 AM on FloHoops) in their openers a day prior. 

After a standout rookie campaign in Starkville, sophomore forward Rickea Jackson (15.1 pts) leads a Lady Bulldog team that will embark on its first season under new head coach Nikki McCray-Penson. She’ll have the chance to pick up a signature win early in her tenure in facing UConn, Geno Auriemma’s powerhouse which boasts the top freshman in the county in guard Paige Bueckers.

Auriemma enters his 36th season at the helm with an extremely young group; six of the 11 players on the roster are freshmen. Fortunately, all-conference guard Christyn Williams returns to provide continuity as the dynasty program tries to win its first national title in five seasons.

UConn will return to Mohegan Sun Arena just five days after their Mississippi State battle to face fifth-ranked Louisville as part of the Jimmy V Classic. Containing preseason ACC player of the year and one of the nation’s best shooters in Dana Evans (18.0 pts) will be a tall order for the young Huskies.

Headlining the first day of action in single-game men’s competition on FloHoops will be No. 4 Virginia men, who open their 2020-2021 season against the University of Maine (Nov. 25, 2:00 PM on FloHoops). The Cavaliers, who beat Maine 46-26 last November in Charlottesville, were mounting a strong NCAA title defense last season before COVID-19 halted their campaign. Tony Bennett’s bunch was 23-7 in 2019-2020 and had won eight straight games ahead of an ACC Tournament that never materialized. 

Now the challenge for UVA will be keeping that momentum despite losing two of their top three scorers in Mamadi Diakite (13.9 pts) and Braxton Key (9.9 pts). Replacing that much scoring for a Virginia team that wins on the defensive end of the floor is not an insignificant matter, but of course they lost more from their championship team the year before and still thrived last season. That will be the expectation once more.

The Florida men open their season the same day with a tilt against the Redhawks from UMass Lowell (4:30 PM on FloHoops), which will be the first look at a reinvented Gators team that wants to play more uptempo now that starting point guard Andrew Nembhard transferred to Gonzaga. 

Mike White’s team ran one of the slowest offenses in the NCAA last season, a style that was ineffective as UF stumbled to a 19-12 despite high pre-season expectations. Florida will play much faster with sophomore Tre Mann as the primary floor general, which is good news for leading scorer and All-SEC forward Keyontae Johnson. White’s new up-tempo offense will face a stiff early-season test in game No. 2 as they clash with the nation’s top-scoring defense from last year in Virginia.

Other men’s teams of note contesting single games in Uncasville include Stephen F. Austin, Rhode Island, Towson, UMass, and Delaware. SFA will have high expectations coming off a 28-3 campaign which included a buzzer-beater win over No. 1 Duke last November. The Lumberjacks will tussle with Rhode Island in their opener (Nov. 25, 11:30 AM on FloHoops).

The Empire Classic is the stage where the second-ranked Baylor men could meet No. 3 Villanova on Thanksgiving Day. First, though, the Wildcats will have to get past Boston College and Baylor No. 18 Arizona State on Nov. 25.

The Hall of Fame Tip Off and Legends Classic are the other two men’s tournaments that will go on in Bubbleville. The Tip Off will feature such teams as Virginia Tech, South Florida, and Temple, as well as games exclusively on FloHoops between Vermont, Iona, Drexel, Quinnipiac, and Albany from Dec. 2 to Dec. 4. The Legends Classic begins Dec. 1 with BYU vs. USC and UConn vs. Vanderbilt, with the winners to face off in the championship game on Dec. 3.

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