Coach Fred Hoiberg stands on the sideline and points during basketball game
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Report: Nebraska Preparing to Host Bubble Tournament in Lincoln

October 06, 2020

Nebraska called an audible on its nonconference schedule recently, pulling out of the relocated Myrtle Beach Invitational with the intent of hosting its own multi-team event in Lincoln. Per reports on Tuesday morning, details about that Lincoln MTE are starting to come into focus.

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Cleveland State — coached by Dennis Gates, the brother of Nebraska assistant coach Armon Gates — was on Nebraska’s original nonconference schedule. The Vikings went 11-21 in Gates’ fist year at the helm but return most of their rotation including leading scorer and rebounder Al Eichenberger (14.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game).

LSU went 21-10 under Will Wade last season and although the Tigers lost two of their top three scorers, they return their other three starters and add a top-10 recruiting class led by 5-star guard Cameron Thomas. Nevada went 19-12 during its first season under Steve Alford but lost its top four scorers from that team.

Ben Jacobsen’s Northern Iowa went 25-6 in the Missouri Valley and returns its top three scorers including the conference’s top scorer in point guard AJ Green (19.7 points per game). The Panthers’ conference mate, Illinois State, is coming off a 10-21 season and returns two of its top three scorers.

On Thursday, Oklahoma State announced that it would be participating in the event as well, also revealing the name of the MTE: 2020 Golden Window. Oklahoma State also shared the MTE is scheduled for Nov. 25-28, pending Big Ten approval.

Oklahoma State went 18-14 last season but returns just one starter in versatile point guard Isaac Likekele (10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals per game). However, Coach Mike Boynton added a star-studded recruiting class headlined by 5-star guard Cade Cunningham that also includes one-time Nebraska commit and Lincoln North Star graduate Donovan Williams.

On Friday, CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander reported two more teams were joining the event: San Francisco and Western Kentucky.

San Francisco went 22-12 last year under Todd Golden and returns two of its top four scorers in senior guard Jamaree Bouyea (12.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game) and junior guard Khalil Shabazz (10.6 points per game).

Per Rothstein and Norlander, the Hilltoppers will play two games in Lincoln including one against LSU. Western Kentucky went 20-10 under Rick Stansbury last year and returns four of its top five scorers headlined by Taveion Hollingsworth (16.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game) and big man Charles Bassey (15.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per game). Nebraska sophomore guard Dalano Banton spent his freshman year at Western Kentucky before entering the transfer portal.

The MTE will bring another familiar face back to Lincoln as well as Colorado State has joined the field. Colorado State assistant coach Ali Farokhmanesh spent three years as Nebraska, first as a graduate manager and then as the director of player relations and development. Colorado State returns five of its top six scorers but lost double-double man Nico Carvacho. The Rams also have a Nebraska native on the roster in sophomore wing John Tonje, an Omaha Central grad who played summer ball with Huskers Akol Arop, Bret Porter and Jace Piatkowski for the Omaha Sports Academy Crusaders.

Nebraska’s plan is more ambitious than those of the other schools who decided to host their own MTEs. For example, Duke pulled out of the Battle 4 Atlantis (relocated to the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls) in order to host its own event that includes Howard, Elon and Bellarmine. Other schools are looking to play nonconference games in a closed campus environment in Las Vegas or sticking with their originally scheduled MTEs in their new locations.

On Monday, the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Oversight committees reaffirmed their position on reducing the maximum number of games in this pandemic-altered season to 25 games plus a two-game MTE, 24 games plus a three-game MTE or 25 games without an MTE. If Nebraska plays three games in the Lincoln MTE, it would leave up to four spots to fill with standalone nonconference games if the Big Ten doesn’t limit nonconference games beyond the NCAA guidelines. The Big Ten/ACC Challenge would fill one of those spots.

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