Good news for college hoops: Champions Classic likely to be renewed

Even though the Champions Classic is in its third year of a three-year cycle, it appears as though the event may continue beyond next season.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo told Lansing radio station WVFN on Friday he believes the Champions Classic to be renewed for another three years with the Spartans, Kansas, Duke and Kentucky again participating. Champions Classic media coordinator Charley Green did not immediately return an email seeking confirmation, but a Kansas official told the Lawrence News-Journal the Jayhawks intend to participate in the future.

"I think everybody’s happy with it,” said Kansas special assistant to the athletic director Larry Keating, who's in charge of scheduling for the Jayhawks. "There have been discussions for a year about renewing it. It’s a matter of everybody filling their schedules, (ESPN) getting the cities and facilities lined up (before anything is announced). I do believe it’ll stay the first Tuesday of the season, anchoring ESPN’s 24 hours of basketball."

If indeed the Champions Classic continues beyond this season, that's great news for college basketball. The sport needs events that will temporarily draw attention away from football prior to the Super Bowl, and a doubleheader featuring four of the most prominent teams in the nation definitely qualifies, especially when it's the marquee attraction in ESPN's season-opening 24-hour marathon.

Though the Champions Classic has already produced some memorable moments in its first two years, this year's event promises to be the most intriguing of the initial three-year cycle. The Chicago doubleheader could feature as many as four of the nation's top five teams in this year's preseason polls.

Michigan State plays Kentucky in an opening game that will pit an experience Spartans team against John Calipari's latest vaunted freshman class highlighted by forward Julius Randle and guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison. Duke and Kansas square off in a nightcap that will mark the unveiling of vaunted freshmen Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins.