LINCOLN — Nebraska plans to be part of a tournament in Lincoln, with as many as 16 teams, in late November and early December, two sources with knowledge of the event told The World-Herald on Wednesday.
Neither source can speak officially because the tournament, initially reported by CBS Sports, remains fluid until the Big Ten gives final clearance for league teams to play nonconference games. If the league chooses to restrict teams to conference play only — as it did for football — there wouldn’t be a tournament.
Though the tournament would be hosted in Lincoln, an event planner would have oversight of the event, providing structure and negotiating with a television partner, among other duties. The tournament would start around Nov. 25 — the first day men’s teams can start playing — and could potentially have games at Pinnacle Bank Arena and the Devaney Center. Multiple hotels, according to one source, already know about the pending event and have booked rooms.
Nebraska’s in-season tournament was supposed to be the Myrtle Beach Invitational, an eight-team event held the weekend before Thanksgiving. ESPN, which controls the event, moved it and seven other tournaments to its complex at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, where the NBA and MLS conducted bubbles.
“We can confirm the report that Nebraska will not participate in the 2020 Myrtle Beach Invitational,” a spokesman for Nebraska basketball said Wednesday afternoon. “We will work within the framework provided by the Big Ten Conference to build our 2020-21 men’s basketball schedule, including any potential nonconference games.”
The key advantage, from NU’s perspective, is that it’s safer staying in Lincoln with its antigen-testing protocol than getting on a plane and heading to Orlando.
Nebraska expects to be able to have all teams involved in the tourney get daily antigen tests before competition. There’s also a chance the tournament is able to have fans, so long as officials at the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department allow for it.
The teams involved, according to a source, would largely involve Midwestern squads, including power-conference squads and mid-major programs. NU is looking at teams from the Big 12, SEC, West Coast, Missouri Valley, Summit League and Conference USA, among other leagues. Several potential participants would have qualified for the 2020 NCAA tournament had it been played, a source indicated.
A Zoom call was scheduled to be held Monday to discuss the plan for the Lincoln tournament. UNO was one of the teams expected to be on it.
UNL would be ending its fall semester as the event begins. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge appears to still be on, according to reports.
Creightonremains on track for playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis, a tournament originally scheduled for the Bahamas that was moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. CU was to be on Wednesday’s Zoom call for that event.
World-Herald staff writer Jon Nyatawa contributed to this report.