For the past five seasons, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and Michigan State have taken part in the Champions Classic, an exciting match up of college basketball’s top programs.
It gives fans, normally inundated with non-conference games against inferior opponents, a chance to watch some of the best players in the country face off against each other. While the individual teams are only a shell of their March potential, it is still an event worth watching.
Senior vice president of ESPN Events Pete Derzis agrees, saying, "We are pleased to extend the Champions Classic for a new three-year term into the 2019 college basketball season. This marquee event will continue to showcase four teams that represent the very best of college basketball and its rich history."
Furthermore, in an era where quality teams are shy to face off against each other for fear of piling up losses, the exposure for a school, would, in my opinion, be much greater an offset.
With that all being said, what I want to know is why aren’t there more of these events?
I can understand ESPN potentially not wanting to do one in fear of watering down star potential, but you would think other networks could figure out a way to get this on TV.
Beyond the actual logistics of putting on a massive tournament in some of the nation’s largest cities, I set out to compile what I believed would be the next-best tournament if the Arizona Wildcats would take part.
The first school and most obvious choice is the University of North Carolina. The Tar Heels are a blue-blood program, and under Roy Williams have been one of the most consistent programs in the country. They have only missed the NCAA Tournament once (2010 NIT Championship appearance) in the last 13 seasons, and have won two titles in that span, plus an appearance in last year’s championship game.
With them in and Arizona also in, this is where the difficulty came in.
To myself, I had a few criteria: regionally diverse, big TV market/fan base, and a winning program.
While I had some ideas, I wanted to see what some of our great readers thought. Plus, I knew I’d forget some good teams.
So, I posed this question to the Twitter world:
As you can see, there was a lot of Indiana suggestions which would cover the Midwest region. While I don’t have any objections, I liked the Texas route more as I feel they have greater potential in the long-term and have arguably the largest TV market in college sports.
For me personally, I went Longhorns. Then I needed a northeast school and that could be Villanova, Connecticut, or Syracuse. While I’m not fully sold on any of them, I'd probably go with Nova right now.
However, this is much less about me and much more about you .
I want to hear who you would include in my hypothetical ‘Next-Up Classic’.