We’re starting to get a little concerned in the focus and alacrity with which the powers-that-be seem to be listening to us. And when we say us, we mean all of us — the traditional media who have been pushed, challenged and inspired by the alt-media, and the alt-media who in turn has raised its professionalism and quality to compete and bolster the establishment. We pushed back in a historic way with NCAA Tournament expansion, and the result was a tolerable, if not ideal, one. We’ve asked for greater scrutiny and accountability from the NCAA in how it polices its programs, and although we’re a long way from finished, the organization has gotten better. And most recently, we’ve begged for a true tipoff event that will fire people up and remind them that college basketball has returned in the midst of a crowded fall sports landscape.
Today’s announcement of the creation of the Champions Classic, a new marquee season tipoff event that will feature, quite literally, four of the best programs in the sport playing each other over the next three seasons at different venues, is a great first step toward accomplishing that goal. ESPN of course will carry the event (probably as the marquee event of the 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon), and we’re already salivating at the matchups between some of roundball’s most regal programs. Here’s the schedule — try to contain yourself — we have to get through this season first:
Year 1 – Nov. 15, 2011 (Madison Square Garden, NYC)
Duke vs. Michigan State
Kentucky vs. Kansas
Year 2- Nov. 13, 2012 (Georgia Dome, Atlanta)
Duke vs. Kentucky
Michigan State vs. Kansas
Year 3 – Nov. 12, 2013 (United Center, Chicago)
Kentucky vs. Michigan State
Duke vs. Kansas
Um, wow. It’s taking every ounce of willpower that we have around here to resist the urge to already start breaking down these games. These are Final Four-caliber matchups at truly neutral sites, and there’s no reason to believe that as long as K, Calipari, Izzo and Self are around that any one of these programs will have much of a “down” year. We also love that the venue rotates between different host cities, which again gives it the feel of a major event. There are enough top-drawer programs involved that will sell out no matter where it’s held in a given year. Hopefully after this three-year rotation, the organizers will keep moving it around, careful to avoid any blatant home bias (i.e., holding it in Kansas City or Louisville).
According to the release article, all four representative coaches were immediately on board with this idea, and it makes us wonder if the organizers were four-for-four in their solicitations for this event. There’s one notable name missing, of course, and that’s North Carolina. We wonder if the Heels ever got the call, or whether Duke was #1A and Carolina was #1B in terms of fielding an ACC team in the Classic. Of course it wouldn’t make sense to have both because they wouldn’t play each other and it would mess up the rotation, but presumably the organizers could have considered slotting one or the other into the event in different years. We like it better this way, though. It provides consistency over the three years and we can already start slobbering on our keyboards about future matchups. Furthermore, even though the NCAA needs to clean up the trickling-out problem of the start of the season, the Champions Classic will go a country mile in slapping America across the forehead that college hoops is back, baby, and you should pay attention. Great decision.