Women’s Cancun Challenge basketball tournament canceled

The Women’s Cancun Challenge has been canceled, eliminating one of the more familiar recurring Thanksgiving-week tournaments on the women’s college basketball calendar.

A spokesperson for event organizers confirmed the cancellation Thursday. The men’s portion of the tournament has not been canceled, the spokesperson said.

Triple Crown Sports announced in July that the men’s and women’s events, previously held at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya in Mexico, would move this year to Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne, Florida, because of pandemic-related concerns.

Held every year since 2005, the event featured a 10-team field since 2015.

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No specific reason was given for the cancellation, but Tennessee coach Kellie Harper, whose team had planned on participating in this season’s tournament, spoke Thursday about the scheduling difficulties teams are having with regard to multiteam events.

“Going into this season we knew who we were going to be playing at these tournaments,” Harper said. “Everyone knew who their competition was going to be, how many games they were going to play. As conferences changed restrictions, in terms of travel or in terms of their numbers [of conference games], teams started dropping out of tournaments, teams started switching tournaments. And I think the hardest part has been knowing who has been going where, which team is going to which tournament.”

Harper indicated scheduling has been a bigger issue than ensuring coronavirus testing protocols meet standards set by conferences or schools.

“I do think in respect to those decisions,” Harper said, “I think the tournament operators have been really great to work with and making sure that all those protocols are met.”

The NCAA announced last month that women’s basketball teams can schedule a maximum of 23 games in addition to one multiteam event in which a team can play up to four additional games (or a maximum of 25 games if the team does not participate in a multiteam event). Once conference schedules are considered, that often leaves programs with only a handful of openings for nonconference games.

Those scheduling difficulties also appear to have eliminated a planned neutral-site game between Baylor and Oregon. The two teams, who met in the 2019 Final Four, were scheduled to play in Las Vegas on Dec. 19.

Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said Thursday that, as far as she knows, the game is not going to happen. That echoed the sentiments of Oregon coach Kelly Graves, who while noting the contracts weren’t signed yet, indicated Wednesday that his team’s only three nonconference games would be regional games, likely against Portland, Portland State and Seattle.

“I think we’re going to stay local,” Graves said.

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