When Connecticut backed out of an agreement to open its season on the deck of an aircraft carrier a few weeks ago, the Huskies apparently had another headline-generating concept in mind instead.
UConn and Michigan State announced Tuesday they plan to meet in their season opener at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Nov. 9 pending formal approval from the Department of Defense. The game will be played in front of about 2,500 to 3,000 enlisted men and women at the base and a national television audience on ESPN.
"Being a part in the first college basketball game to be played on a military base overseas is truly an honor," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said in a statement.
"Playing in the Carrier Classic on the USS Carl Vinson last season provided memories that will last a lifetime, as the historic event was so much more than just a basketball game. The opportunity to honor the great men and women of the US Armed Forces was a humbling experience, as we felt that we got so much more in return than we gave. To now have the opportunity to take our game overseas to the servicemen and women serving to protect us is an awesome experience."
The matchup between UConn and Michigan State in Germany will be part of what ought to be a very pro-military day to kick off the college basketball season. That same day will also feature three games on naval ships: Marquette-Ohio State in Charleston, S.C., Florida-Georgetown in Jacksonville and Syracuse-San Diego State in San Diego.
The one drawback to the Nov. 9 game in Germany for Michigan State is the Spartans will play Kansas in Atlanta on Nov. 13. That's a lot of travel and a lot of potential jet lag for the team, but Izzo says he's not concerned. After all, the Spartans played North Carolina and Duke on opposite coasts less than 48 hours apart last year, lost both games and still rebounded to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
"We'll play four days later, but who cares,'' Izzo told ESPN.com. "The players want to do it."
The game is the latest achievement for Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis, whose reputation for creativity is unmatched in his field. Among the games Hollis has previously concocted are the first aircraft carrier game between Michigan State and North Carolina last season and the "BasketBowl" at Ford Field in Detroit between the Spartans and Kentucky.
Michigan State and UConn won't be quite as nationally significant a game as those two, but the matchup does have promise.
The Spartans will rely on Keith Appling and Branden Dawson to help overcome the loss of all-American Draymond Green. The Huskies will look to guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright to help diminish the departure of stars Jeremy Lamb, Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi.
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