ESTERO, Fla. – A college basketball season unlike any other tips off on Wednesday, Nov. 25, and will include a slate of games at Hertz Arena in bdG Sports’ #BeachBubble at the Gulf Coast Showcase. Over the course of Thanksgiving weekend, the Kentucky-based promoter will play host to eight men’s and six women’s teams in Southwest Florida and put on 21 games at Hertz Arena and FGCU’s Alico Arena.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA announced in mid-September that the start of the college basketball season would be delayed until Nov. 25. That change prompted a whirlwind of changes to existing team schedules and event fields across the country. Unlike most events, bdG Sports, which has managed the Gulf Coast Showcase men’s and women’s tournaments at Hertz Arena since 2013, was able to retain the majority of their participants to put forth an eight-team men’s tournament strictly for mid-major programs while also attracting six of the premier women’s teams in the country.
“We have built these men’s and women’s fields with the health and safety of our teams first and foremost in mind,” said Brooks Downing, President of bdG Sports. “We have instituted a comprehensive safety plan with the focus on our three pillars of the host resort, game venue and ground transportation. Our partners at Hertz Arena, FGCU, Hyatt Regency Coconut Point, Naples Tours and Transportation, Summit One Source, which provides our testing, and Loop Insights, which provides contact tracing, have all bought in from day one how important it is that we do this right and in a manner which protects the players and coaches as best we can.”
With a compressed window over Thanksgiving week – typically the men play each year on Monday through Wednesday, followed by the women’s tournament on Friday through Sunday – FGCU was in position to welcome the women’s event once it became evident that the two tournaments would overlap.
“The teams were insistent on keeping these events on Thanksgiving weekend, and Ken Kavanagh and Karl Smesko put us in position to keep both of these events in Fort Myers,” Downing said. “With Coach Smesko’s team already slated to play in this year’s field, it just made the most sense to utilize Alico Arena to play host to the women’s slate of games.”
The men’s tournament will get the action started first with a traditional eight-team tournament bracket at Hertz Arena. The first-round match-ups on Wednesday, Nov. 25 are:
- ETSU (30-4 record in 2019-20) vs. Abilene Christian (20-11) – 11 a.m.
- Akron (24-7) vs. Middle Tennessee (8-23) – 2 p.m.
- Austin Peay (21-12) vs. Omaha (16-16) – 5 p.m.
- Indiana State (18-12) vs. East Carolina (11-20) – 8 p.m.
Semifinal games will be played at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night and Friday’s championship game will tip at 8 p.m. All 12 games will be streamed live and available on-demand on FloHoops.com.
The men’s tournament will be a homecoming for East Carolina coach Joe Dooley. Dooley led the Eagles to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2016 and 2017. But East Carolina will match up against some of the best “mid-majors” in the nation, including ETSU, the defending champions of the Southern Conference, which was one of only four teams in the country with 30 wins despite the season being cut short due to the pandemic. Akron won the Mid-American Conference regular season title while Abilene Christian (Southland), Austin Peay (OVC) and Indiana State (Missouri Valley) all finished in the top-four of their respective regular-season league standings.
The Gulf Coast Showcase has earned a reputation as one of the most competitive events in women’s college basketball. Past champions including UConn, Stanford, Baylor, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Texas.
While FGCU was one of just four women’s teams with 30 wins last season, Maryland (28-4 last season) won the Big Ten regular season title and Missouri State (26-4) was crowned champs of the Missouri Valley. Arkansas (24-8) is expected to once again be among the top scoring teams after finishing third in the country last year at 83.4 points per game, while Davidson returns 92 percent of its scoring and is expected to contend for an Atlantic 10 title.
Friday, Nov. 27
- Arkansas vs. Wake Forest – 11:30 a.m.
- Davidson vs. Maryland – 2:30 p.m.
- Missouri State vs. FGCU – 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 28
- Wake Forest vs. Davidson – 11:30 a.m.
- FGCU vs. Arkansas – 2:30 p.m.
- Maryland vs. Missouri State – 5:30 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 29
- Davidson vs. FGCU – 11:30 a.m.
- Missouri State vs. Wake Forest – 2:30 p.m.
- Arkansas vs. Maryland – 5:30 p.m.
All nine games of the women’s field will be available live and on-demand on FloHoops.
“We have seen the best of women’s basketball at the Gulf Coast Showcase over the years but this year’s field may be the most exciting collection of offensive teams we’ve seen,” said ESPN college basketball analyst Debbie Antonelli. “Four of the six teams were ranked among the top-15 in the country in scoring last year. Arkansas could be the most potent team in the country with Chelsea Dungee and Oregon State transfer Destiny Slocum running the show. Missouri State and FGCU are once again tabbed to win their respective conferences while Maryland reloads with last season’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year in Ashley Owusu and the nation’s #2-ranked freshman Angel Reese.”
Health and Safety Plan
bdG Sports has implanted a comprehensive health and safety plan as part of the #BeachBubble. The plan includes:
- COVID-19 testing antigen and antibody testing prior to arrival in Southwest Florida
- Rapid antigen testing provided by Summit One Source upon arrival and throughout the stay
- The availability of rapid PCR testing with a three-hour turnaround time to confirm any positive tests from the antigen testing
- Daily medical screenings which include self-evaluations and temperature screenings
- Implementation of Loop Insights’ contract tracing through he “wallet” feature on cell phones
- Social distancing and mask requirements in public spaces at Hyatt Regency Coconut Point and the game venue
- Enhanced cleaning protocols at the resort, game venues and on local ground transportation
There will be no general fan access for the Gulf Coast Showcase games and tickets will not be available to the general public. A limited number of “Spectator Credentials” will be supplied to each team. A requirement to receiving these team-issued credentials, all individuals will receive a COVID-19 rapid antigen test at the event’s medical center at Hyatt Regency Coconut Point.
Preferred hotel rates at the official tournament resort hotel – the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point – are available at www.GulfCoastShowcase.com.
Complete #BeachBubble event information can be found at www.GulfCoastShowcase.com and on social media at @GCShowcase.