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Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Champions Classic to be awesome

By Eamonn Brennan

Given Tuesday night's orange-hued shellacking, Michigan State fans might not be totally enthused for this development, but pretty much everyone else should be: In 2011, college hoops is starting the season off right.

On Nov. 15, 2011, Duke, Michigan State, Kansas and Kentucky will play in the Champions Classic, according to some guy named Andy Katz. The marquee event will be held at Madison Square Garden -- told you Michigan State fans might not like this -- and will rotate matchups and venues for at least the next three seasons.

Michigan State will play Duke and Kansas will play Kentucky at MSG next November. In 2012, Michigan State will play Kansas and Duke will play Kentucky at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. In 2013, Michigan State will play Kentucky and Duke will play Kansas at the United Center in Chicago. The events will be televised by ESPN.

Be sure to read all of Andy's report for perspective from the coaches involved, all of whom seem to love the idea. They should. This is an awesome idea.

In fact, it's exactly the kind of thing college basketball needs: Four elite, national programs competing on a neutral floor at the very beginning of the year. The dates for 2012 and 2013 are Nov. 13 and Nov. 12, respectively, which means the ostentatiously named tournament will literally become a kickoff event.

Every year, we complain about college hoops' limp opening. For far too long, the sport has begun its season in obscure and disorganized fashion, dominated by programs scared of scheduling tough early-season matchups and more inclined to make money from home gate revenues. But this event alleviates those concerns. It's four of the nation's best, most tradition-rich, and most popular programs squaring off in major national venues, playing games that matter, introducing the season with the sort of high-profile competition that gets people talking. Combine it with the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon, and guess what? College hoops' opening week starts to look pretty good.

In other words, if this doesn't get the casual college hoops fan watching in mid-November, maybe nothing will. So way to go, Champions Classic participants. (And, of course, ESPN. High five, mothership!) A nation of hoops die-hards salutes you.