Thursday, August 11, 2011

I really like the Virginia Governor's decision to host a Holiday Hoops Classic

Despite being home to two ACC teams, I think that it is fair to say the best basketball programs in the state of Virginia reside outside the BCS conferences.

UVa and Va Tech have been on the sidelines for every NCAA Tournament since 2007. On the other hand, VCU and George Mason have not only been to multiple tournaments in the last five years, they've won games, each reaching a Final Four since 2006. Old Dominion and Richmond have made back-to-back NCAA Tournaments as well.

But the ACC schools have refused to play the in-state mid-major programs in recent years. ODU and UVa haven't played since 1996. VCU and Va Tech haven't played since 1995. Its been even longer since the Hokies have played George Mason, stretching all the way back to 1992. Even former CAA rivals George Mason and Richmond have had a drought in their series, not playing since the Spiders left the league in 2001.

That's all scheduled to change in December of 2012 as Virginia's governor Bob McDonnell has created the Governor's Holiday Hoops Classic, a recreation of the Times-Dispatch Invitation Tournament, which lasted for 15 years before ending in 1991. It will take place at the Richmond Coliseum and this year features an opener of George Mason against Richmond with a nightcap pitting UVa and ODU. The following year, Va Tech will play VCU while Hampton takes on James Madison. The event will benefit Virginia's food banks.

I love this.

On the one hand, it creates quality basketball games and puts quality mid-major programs in a position to play an ACC opponent at a neutral court (or for Richmond and VCU, at home). There is nothing wrong with quality non-conference basketball.

But it should also stoke some rivalry flames. I doubt that UVa and Va Tech are going to be happy about having their Governor force them to play mid-major competition in-state. There's a reason that the mid-majors don't have annual rivalry games with the high-majors. Where there is resentment and hard-feelings, there are quality basketball games. Hopefully, it will create a competitive environment and some exciting hoops.

And who knows, maybe it will inspire the Cavaliers and the Hokies to start a series against their in-state rivals.

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