By Daniel Etchells |
The University of Michigan and the University of Kentucky have agreed to a three-year deal that will see them take their men’s college basketball teams to play at the O2 Arena in London next year.
The international fixture is the first part of a three-game series played over three years, with the Wolverines and the Wildcats also facing each other at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 2021 and the Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky in 2022.
The neutral-site game between the two universities will be hosted by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and will also serve as a fundraiser for the Hall of Fame.
It will be the first National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I college basketball game to be played at the 02 Arena.
All further details on the date, game time, television partners and ticket pricing are due to be announced next month.
“This series with Michigan checks off a lot of boxes when we’re looking at teams to schedule,” John Calipari, the University of Kentucky’s head coach, said.
“The first thing is, to add an opponent like Michigan and to do so at a point in the schedule where we’re beginning to find out who we are as a team will be important in our development.
“And then to be able to do something different – to be first, which our fans know we love to do – and play this first game in London will be an unforgettable experience for our players and for our fans.
“I imagine the home-and-home games the following seasons will be as good as any non-conference games in the country.”
The University of Kentucky has played several international matches on foreign exhibition tours, but the game in London will mark their third regular-season trip outside the United States and first in Europe.
The Wildcats beat Cleveland State University and Stanford University in Mexico in the Cancún Challenge in November 2009 and most recently defeated Arizona State University in The Bahamas in November 2016.
Michigan has been one of the most successful programs over the last 10-plus seasons.
Beginning with the 2009-2010 season, when Calipari took over at Kentucky, Michigan has won 19 NCAA Tournament games, appeared in two final fours, three elite eights, five sweet 16s, and has captured two big-10 regular-season championships and three conference tournament titles.
The Wolverines are led by first-year head coach Juwan Howard, who took the reins of the programme this season after former head coach John Beilein moved to the National Basketball Association (NBA).
The O2 Arena had served as the venue of the NBA’s international series until the league re-located its overseas game to Paris for 2020.
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.