In these dog days -- relatively speaking, of course, until it's actually summer weather -- of the college offseason, scheduling news is about all we have to get our sports juices flowing. And we got a bit more, albeit slightly puzzling, news Monday evening.
Wisconsin will open the 2013-14 college basketball season Nov. 8 vs. St. John's... in Sioux Falls, S.D., at the newly-built Sanford Pentagon facility. The game will be nationally televised, though the time and network remain TBA.
"In terms of locale, Wisconsin fans from around the Midwest will have the opportunity to travel to Sioux Falls and watch the game, and it just made sense for us in terms of intelligent travel for our team," UW associate head coach Greg Gard said. "We've been approached by several broadcasting networks to play a neutral site game around the world and we felt that given the time of when it needed to be played, the location and the opponent that this was a great fit for us."
I can buy that "intelligent travel" bit and, yes, it is following in the steps of the football program in beefing up its non-confernece slate. The whole "Midwest team plays an East Coast program" storyline does align with current Big Ten thinking as expansion looms just around the corner... but let's be real. This is about the dough, and having the focus of the release be on this new $19 million facility all but confirms it.
The game will be the first Division I fare played in the arena, which will become the home court for the NBDL's Sioux Falls Skyforce this fall. In particular, Wisconsin and St. John's will square off on the centerpiece Heritage Court, which carries an attendance maximum of 3,250 people.
"The relationship Coach Ryan has with Coach (Steve) Lavin also made it a more appealing game," Gard added. "They have had a long-standing relationship and with the game featuring Midwest and East Coast programs, it brings some flavor to the schedule."
Flavorful, indeed. Also important: Wisconsin will use the game as a home date, though it will officially be considered a neutral contest when it comes to RPI and all that jazz. And don't forget, former Badger forward and current video coordinator Joe Krabbenhoft is a Sioux Falls native. Just call it The Krabbenhoft Bowl already.
The Badgers and Red Storm have meet three times, with Wisconsin winning all three. This meeting will be the first in over a decade, and the second neutral-site contest after UW won an opening-round game vs. SJU in the 2002 NCAA tournament.
If you'd like a preview of basketball in the Sanford Pentagon, the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls reports the Milwaukee Bucks and Minnesota Timberwolves will play an NBA exhibition game there on Oct. 10.