Since 2011, Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana has hosted four of the basketball-crazy state’s most prominent men’s basketball programs for a doubleheader on a Saturday in mid-December.
Butler. Indiana. Notre Dame. Purdue.
At different times during the nine seasons this event has been held, each school has been able to make the case that it was the best program in the state. In 2011, the first year of the Crossroads Classic, Butler was coming off of back-to-back national runner-up finishes.
In 2012, Indiana arrived in Indy ranked No. 1 in the country.
This season Purdue is coming off of an Elite Eight appearance, just like Notre Dame was in both 2015 and 2016.
Indiana has played Notre Dame when the Hoosiers were ranked and the Fighting Irish weren’t, and vice versa.
2013 was the only year in which none of the teams were ranked, then all four were ranked in 2016.
While Indiana and Purdue don’t play in the Crossroads Classic since they play each other in the Big Ten, every school has beaten every other combination of schools in the event, giving it an annual level of parity and competitiveness.
It got us wondering: What other states would be perfect for a Crossroads Classic-style event?
We’re looking for states with Division I schools from at least two or three conferences that could be competitive with each other on an annual basis.
Here are seven potential events inspired by the Crossroads Classic.
We don’t want to ruin the annual Crosstown Shootout between Cincinnati and Xavier, but the state of Ohio could host a four-team event similar to the Crossroads Classic between Cincinnati, Dayton, Ohio State and Xavier.
The Crosstown Shootout could either become part of the four-team event on a rotational basis — rotating through a home game and a neutral-site game on a three-year cycle — or it could remain separate, since the on-campus nature of the rivalry is a huge part of what makes it great. The Bearcats and Musketeers could then avoid each other in the Ohio event similarly to Indiana and Purdue in the Crossroads Classic.
Xavier could redevelop another rivalry too. Dayton and the Musketeers used to be conference rivals in the Atlantic 10 (any Xavier fan will let you know the Musketeers haven’t lost to the Flyers in Cincinnati since 1981). Dayton eliminated Ohio State in the 2014 NCAA tournament as a No. 11 seed en route to the Elite Eight and the Flyers have a lot of momentum as they’re No. 13 in the latest AP poll.
Ohio State beat Cincinnati 64-56 to start each of the last two seasons as part of a home-and-home series, so there’s clearly a willingness for those two schools to play each other.
There are so many storylines, plus recent and decades-old history between these four programs, to make such an event work for the state of Ohio and its passionate men’s basketball fan bases.
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There are more than enough Division I programs in the state of Texas that you wouldn’t even have to limit yourself to a four-team event if you didn’t want to. For starters, you could go with, say, Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Houston with Texas and Texas Tech avoiding each other in the event in a similar manner to Indiana/Purdue since they’ll already play each other twice in the regular season as part of the Big 12’s round-robin schedule.
At the time this was written, SMU, UTEP, North Texas, UT Arlington and Texas State were all ranked in the top 150 on kenpom.com, which means a potential two or three-day, eight-team event could have legs, too, given that there are almost 10 programs in the state that are ranked in the upper half of the sport.
We’re seeing a rivalry brewing between Memphis and Tennessee, which played last weekend as part of a home-and-home series in which each school won on the other’s home floor in the last two seasons.
Plus, Vanderbilt is one of the biggest programs in the state and its home city of Nashville could host the event on an annual basis. There’s also no shortage of programs in the state that would love to have the chance to take on one of the three aforementioned schools on a neutral court.
Middle Tennessee has been a consistent power in the Sun Belt and Conference USA for most of the decade, including three NCAA Tournament berths in a five-year stretch — the latter two of which resulted in the Blue Raiders upsetting Big Ten teams in No. 2 seed Michigan State in 2016 and No. 5 seed Minnesota in 2017.
East Tennessee State won 100 games in the first four seasons of Steve Forbes’ tenure. This includes a 27-win season in 2017 that culminated in the Buccaneers earning a No. 13 seed in the NCAA tournament and a recent true road victory against LSU where they won by 11. That’s a program that would be itching to get more cracks at one of the big boys in the state.
Chattanooga is just four seasons removed from a 29-win season in which it received a No. 12 seed, so it has a favorable ceiling as well.
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Since the 2006 season, Belmont has won at least 20 games in every season but one (2010 being the exception when the Bruins won 19 games) and it has eight NCAA tournament appearances to its name this century.
Austin Peay has made the NCAA tournament roughly every five to 10 years, too.
So perhaps the state of Tennessee deserves more credit for its quantity and quality of men’s basketball programs. Plenty of schools outside of Memphis, Vanderbilt and Tennessee have proven themselves time and time again.
There’s no love lost between the fans of Florida, Florida State and Miami (FL), so that three-way rivalry would be the easy starting point for an in-state event. UCF is on the heels of a memorable 2019 NCAA Tournament appearance, something that Florida Gulf Coast has also had this decade, and South Florida, Florida Atlantic and FIU would also make sense in a potential eight-team event.
A lot of these schools already play each other — take Florida State, for example, which has played or will play Florida, North Florida, South Florida and Miami (FL) this season — so why not get some of the state’s best together under one roof on the same day?
There are five Division I programs (Chicago State, DePaul, UIC, Loyola Chicago and Northwestern) within about a 30-minute drive of the United Center, where the Chicago Bulls play, and Illinois has played games there in the past, too.
Don’t forget about Illinois State and the directional Illinois schools, which collectively provide for more than enough potential combinations of non-conference, neutral-site matchups in Chicago.
There’s been some positive momentum in recent years among the state’s major programs, with Northwestern reaching its first-ever NCAA tournament in 2017, Loyola Chicago making the Final Four in 2018, DePaul starting 9-0 last season and Illinois recently enrolling some high-level talent in Ayo Dosunmu, Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Kofi Cockburn.
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Massachusetts, specifically Boston, has one of the highest concentrations of colleges in the country. While Boston is a pro sports town, there’s certainly an audience for college competition between Boston College, Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern.
The Beanpot, a men’s hockey event between the four schools, is an annual tradition in the city and the schools used to play on the hardwood, too. Why not bring that back?
The Beanpot is played at Boston’s TD Garden, which is also home to the Celtics, so the logistics would be easy.
Four Corners Monument
One of the coolest geographic landmarks in the country is the Four Corner Monuments, where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet at the only point in the country that’s shared by four states.
The location of the event could rotate every year such that four-year players get to play in each state once during their college careers. What teams would be involved?
Well, this is a little bit trickier than the previously suggested events because Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah all play in the Pac-12, which means they’re unlikely to ever play in the non-conference.
But BYU, Utah State, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Northern Colorado and Colorado State provide quality non-Pac-12 teams to round out the event. Each season, you could rotate matchups between Pac-12 schools and their non-Pac-12 counterparts, providing quality neutral-site, non-conference matchups for college basketball fans in the Southwest.