Michigan State will be part of an elite group of college basketball teams in early season doubleheaders over the next three years. ESPN announced Wednesday the Spartans will be joined by Duke, Kansas and Kentucky to form a prestigious foursome for the Champions Classic. The Spartans will play each of the other three schools in the event once over the course of three years at three different neutral sites.
The teams have combined for a total of 22 NCAA Final Four appearances in the last 20 years: Duke (7), Michigan State (6), Kansas (5) and Kentucky (4); and have captured a combined 16 NCAA Division I Championships all-time: Kentucky (7), Duke (4), Kansas (3) and Michigan State (2).
â€œBeing a part of the Champions Classic is a tremendous honor for our program,â€ said MSU head coach Tom Izzo. â€œThese are some of the premier programs in all of college basketball, not only currently, but in the history of the sport. To be included in that group shows that weâ€™ve been able to sustain some long-term success, and is also somewhat humbling.Â This event is a great way to tip off the college basketball season and promote our great sport. Itâ€™s like having a Final Four in November.â€
Â â€œWhether it is our football program or basketball program, we are continually looking to play the best competition, and the Champions Classic certainly provides us that opportunity,â€ said MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis. â€œWeâ€™re always looking for opportunities that will benefit our athletic department and university, both on the road in front of some of our great alumni throughout the country, andÂ in East Lansing Â in front of our loyal supporters.â€
In the first year of the Champions Classic, Michigan State will play Duke in New York â€™s Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15, 2011. The following year, Michigan State will play Kansas in Atlanta â€™s Georgia Dome on Nov. 13, 2012. In the final year of the event, the Spartans will play Kentucky in Chicago â€™s United Center on Nov. 12, 2013.Â
â€œThe unique Champions Classic event brings together four of the all-time best programs and coaches to create a tremendous pillar for the start of the college basketball season over the next three years,â€ said Nick Dawson, director, ESPN programming and acquisitions.Â â€œWe appreciate the cooperation of the schools for embracing the challenge of playing the sportâ€™s premier programs in three great basketball cities."
Quotes from other head coaches:
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski:â€œThe Champions Classic is new for college basketball and to be asked to participate with three programs that are at such a high level is indeed an honor for Duke. We applaud ESPNâ€™s efforts in having the creativity and foresight to help our sport in such a fashion. It should be a terrific event each year, and we look forward to being a part of it.â€
KansasÂ headÂ coach Bill Self: "I thought it was a great idea and I think it's great playing on neutral sites. To come back to Madison Square Garden will be great with three other unbelievable programs. I'll bet each of these programs will sell whatever ticket allotment they have -- 4 to 5,000."
KentuckyÂ headÂ coach John Calipari: â€œThis three-year event is a reward for how passionate these fan bases are for their teams. Itâ€™s a unique opportunity for our fans across the nation to see us play in three major cities against top-level competition. We are looking forward to the challenge and sharing it with the Big Blue Nation, the best fans in the country.â€