COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 16: Keith Appling #11 of the Michigan State Spartans gets tied up with Jason Brickman #15 of the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds in the second half during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Nationwide Arena on March 16, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Usually when news regarding a college team comes out during the offseason, it's far from good. The opposite was the case yesterday though, as Michigan State announced that the men's basketball team would start its season against Connecticut on Rammstein Air Force Base in Germany. Pending Department of Defense approval, the game will be on Friday, November 9th, and be played sometime after 10 p.m. local time for an early evening start in the United States.
First off -- kudos once again to Mark Hollis, MSU Basketball, the U.S. Armed Forces, and ESPN for setting this up. The Carrier Classic last year was one of the highlights of the season, and while Ramstein won't likely have the same gorgeous setting, it's going to give many Americans a taste of home.
Now, to break it down.
Ramstein Air Force Base is located in southwestern Germany, and the closest large city to it would be Brussels, Belgium, some 100 miles away or so. It currently houses the 86th Air Wing. Mark Hollis estimates that the game will be played in front of 2,500 to 3,000 enlisted men and women, and will most likely be played inside.
Michigan State will be facing
Jim Calhoun's house of Academics-n-Waffles The University of Connecticut, a team that was a 9-seed in the past NCAA Tournament. They've lost three of their five players who played the most minutes last season; Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond both declared for the NBA draft and Alex Oriakhi transferred to Missouri. It'll be up to Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatwright to bear the load, since they were the only two players remaining who averaged more than 20 minutes a game last season, and since the Huskies have only one highly-ranked recruit incoming (Omar Calhoun, #10 SG, #39 Overall by Rivals).
Yikes. This makes San Diego to New York last year look like a brief jaunt. There's a six hour difference between Germany and Atlanta, where Michigan State will play their next game against Kansas. There's four days between those two games, and while we can hope jet lag won't be an issue, it probably will be, and the Jayhawks return enough players (Elijah Johnson, Jeff Withey) to make it a difficult game under normal circumstances, no less jet lagged ones.
In all, a great event for our servicemen overseas, a wonderful opportunity for Michigan State to travel abroad, and another great way to start the season.