Tomorrow, the Ohio State men’s and women’s basketball teams will kick off their seasons in Charleston, SC in the 2012 Carrier Classic. The OSU women play Notre Dame at 4 p.m., with the OSU men taking on Marquette at 7 p.m. The inaugural game took place last year between Michigan State and North Carolina aboard the deck of the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego and was the brainchild of Morale Entertainment, a group that organizes events to entertain American military personnel.
The game is an excellent way for the participants to interact with service men and women and give back in a form of entertainment for all of their hard work serving the country. It is also another great innovation in the way that college basketball games are staged. The majority of games around the country are still played in modest sized arenas of varying age and amenities, but the most important contests can no longer be contained by facilities meant for basketball. The Final Four has shifted to a model that exclusively uses indoor football stadiums in order to maximize attendance, and even some earlier round games in the NCAA Tournament are played in stadiums.
My question is, what’s next?
Where else can basketball be played? I think the most novel concepts would be outdoor venues, since playing outdoors adds some interesting variables, and can also provide for some quality scenery (how great does the San Diego skyline look in the background of that picture?). This New York Times article on last year’s Carrier Classic details some past games from different sports played at unique venues. I have come up with the following three ideas:
Outdoor football stadiums – This would require certain elements to be present in order to maximize the effectiveness of the game. You would need a school with a historic stadium but also a quality basketball program in order to fill seats and attract TV viewers. A quality opponent is also a must, as well as somewhere with a relatively forgiving climate in early November. Schools like UCLA, Texas, Florida, Florida State or LSU might be a good fit.
Street ball Meccas – Coaches might not be too inclined to put their teams at risk playing on asphalt, but this is they way most of these players learned the game! Even for just an exhibition game, I think it would be great to see Kentucky and Duke going at it in places like Rucker Park or Venice Beach. During the NBA lockout last year, fans across the nation packed small high school gyms to watch NBA stars play in loosely organized pick up games. It’s one thing to see a game in a cavernous, 60,000 seat stadium, but imagine the atmosphere for a game between two top-10 teams with hundreds of screaming fans packed tight on bleachers just inches from the court.
On top of a mountain – So this last idea may be a bit far-fetched, but hear me out. Logistics aside, a basketball game on top of a mountain would be an amazing experience for all involved. All it would take is the same space needed on the deck of an aircraft carrier, and the view would be one of a kind. Plus, the ball would travel farther at altitude, creating endless long range shot opportunities. Feasible? I’ll let Kevin Garnett decide. Breathtaking? You bet.