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Why the Myrtle Beach Invitational college hoops tournament at CCU is likely on the move

The Sun News logoThe Sun News 9/17/2020 By Alan Blondin, The Sun News (Myrtle Beach, S.C.)

The Myrtle Beach Invitational may be on the move.

The eight-team college basketball tournament, which is scheduled to be played at the HTC Center at Coastal Carolina for the third consecutive year in November, may be moving because of concerns about the coronavirus that have already led to a delay to the start of the college basketball season.

ESPN Events owns and operates several college basketball tournaments including the Myrtle Beach event, and ESPN spokesperson Anna Negron said in an email to The Sun News that it is “evaluating options, which includes the possibility of a ‘bubble-like’ environment for early-season basketball tournaments. ... With the recent success of other sports in a common location following safety protocols, this is something we are keeping in our purview.”

According to CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein, who cited multiple unnamed sources Wednesday, ESPN Events will move eight of its tournaments to Orlando, Florida, mirroring what the NBA did to finish its regular season and hold its playoffs. The NBA is holding games in an isolation zone at Walt Disney World.

The tournaments reportedly moving to Orlando are the Myrtle Beach Invitational, which is scheduled for Nov. 19-22, Champions Classic, Jimmy V Classic, Preseason NIT, Orlando Invitational, Charleston Classic, Wooden Legacy, and Diamond Head Classic.

In its email, ESPN Events said “it continues to evaluate the next steps for our owned and operated events as conferences make decisions on their seasons.”

Teams from eight conferences are booked to compete in the third invitational: Pittsburgh from the Atlantic Coast Conference, Missouri of the SEC, Nebraska of the Big 10, Penn of the Ivy League, Charlotte of Conference USA, Dayton of the Atlantic 10, Loyola University Chicago of the Missouri Valley, and Utah State of the Mountain West.

Coastal Carolina played in the tournament last year, and because the NCAA only allows a team to participate in a specific tournament once every four years, the Chants aren’t eligible to participate again until 2023.

The tournament would likely return to Myrtle Beach in 2021. Pete Derzis, ESPN Senior Vice President of College Sports Programming and Events, said last year that the Myrtle Beach Invitational is negotiating with teams to play up to three years from now. He said other teams that are contracted to participate in the near future include Oklahoma and Davidson.

The first two Myrtle Beach Invitationals have been won by Central Florida in 2018 and Baylor in 2019.

Whether it moves or not, the tournament will likely get new dates this year.

The NCAA Division I Council on Wednesday pushed the start date of the season back two weeks to Nov. 25 because of COVID-19 and laid out how basketball teams can prepare for the season.

A waiver for an earlier tournament start date can be requested, but NCAA senior vice president Dan Gavitt said Wednesday that an exception is unlikely. The NCAA said the day before Thanksgiving was chosen for the first games because students will be on break and in many cases won’t return to campus until the spring semester, so the spread of the coronavirus early in the season will be less likely.

Negron’s email to The Sun News was prior to the NCAA’s announcement of the new start date to the season.. “Clarity on the start of college basketball and how non-conference schedules will be determined will give [ESPN] Events a better sense of how to move forward,” she said.

Basketball teams can begin practice on Oct. 14, but to allow players to better prepare for the season the NCAA will allow them 12 hours per week of team-related athletic activities, including up to eight hours on the court, for three weeks from Monday through Oct. 13.

It is not allowing scrimmages or exhibition games prior to Nov. 25.

The maximum number of games has been decreased by four to 27, which includes one multiple-team tournament, and the minimum number of games required against Division I competition to still be eligible for the NCAA Tournament is 13.

CCU had planned to start its season around the previous start date of Nov. 10, and expects to soon announce its altered schedule.

Fall schedules finalized

Coastal Carolina’s five fall teams aside from football have finalized their schedules, and they have all been truncated because of the coronavirus.

The CCU women’s soccer team is scheduled to play 10 Sun Belt Confernence matches — five at home and five away — though its opener at home Thursday against Georgia Southern has been postponed because of anticipated heavy rain.

The men’s soccer team will play six games against Sun Belt opposition beginning Oct. 10 at home against Georgia State. The men’s conference tournament will be held Nov. 12-15 at Georgia Southern.

The men’s and women’s cross country teams will compete in four meets this fall, highlighted by the opener Friday in Boone, N.C., the Chanticleer Challenge on Oct. 16 and the conference championships on Oct. 31 in Mobile, Ala.

The volleyball team is scheduled to play 16 regular-season matches, including eight at the HTC Center, followed by the Sun Belt tournament Nov. 18-22 at the Foley Sports Tourism Complex in Foley, Ala. The season starts with three matches at South Alabama on Sept. 25-26 and the home slate begins Oct. 1-2 vs. Appalachian State.

Though NCAA golf championships are held in the spring, the men’s golf team will play in three fall tournaments, according to head coach Jim Garren, and the women’s golf team also intends to travel to three tournaments, though it won’t be taking a full team, according to head coach Katie Quinney.

The women’s team is comprised of players from nine countries, including many in Europe, and Quinney said many will remain in their countries until the spring semester for both competition and safety purposes. Her available players will compete as individuals in the fall tournaments.

A tenous season

Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill said last week that the conference is prepared to change course or pull the plug on the football season if the coronavirus becomes too problematic.

He said the conference opted to go forward with a fall schedule while considering advice from numerous sources including the Sun Belt COVID-19 Advisory Panel that includes medical officials.

“We took the advice of our medical folks and have been trying to follow that advice,” Gill said. “This will be a week-to-week exercise. We’ll try to see if we can repeat it 14 times. We certainly know there is going to be some disruption and there are going to be some challenges along the way, but we feel we’ve got a good plan that our medical folks put together for us and we’ll try to execute that and continue to be safe in the way we return to sport and return to activities.

“The minute we can’t do it in a safe way we’ll certainly pull the plug and we won’t do it anymore.”

Some Sun Belt teams, including CCU, have scheduled games on the tentative date of the Sun Belt Championship Game on Dec. 5, and Gill said the conference has the flexible dates of Dec. 5, 12 and 19 to hold the game between the East and West division winners.

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©2020 The Sun News (Myrtle Beach, S.C.)

Visit The Sun News (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) at www.thesunnews.com

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