Watching the NFL has become just as much of a Thanksgiving day tradition as a turkey induced coma. And with games including the Packers headed to Detroit, and the Ravens hosting the Steelers in the recently-added third act of holiday football, there will be plenty of fans locally focusing in on football.
But on this Thanksgiving, area college hoops fans might have another doubleheader in mind.
Butler and Purdue are both part of the Old Spice Classic, an ESPN-owned event that’s been in existence since 2006. This event joins the 76 Classic in Anaheim (which Butler played in four years ago, the first year of back-to-back national championship games), as events created by ESPN to provide more programming during what has become perhaps the best holiday to be a sports fan.
Games are played Thursday, Friday, and on Sunday. Again, since ESPN owns the event, teams do not play on Saturday, that way the basketball games don’t compete with the final regular season weekend for any football league that plays a championship game the week following.
Not only are Butler and Purdue both a part of the event, they will open up by playing back-to-back matinees on Thanksgiving day. Purdue will open up the tournament against Oklahoma State at noon. And for those that didn’t keep track of the Cowboys last year, that means that Marcus Smart awaits for Purdue. He was a first-team all-American last year, then bypassed the NBA Draft for a year. He’s already listed as a top three selection in mock drafts for 2014. Oklahoma State lost to Oregon in the NCAA tournament a year ago.
Butler then will follow with a game against Washington State. Ironically, the last time that the Bulldogs and Cougars played was on another holiday. They played in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic on Christmas Day in Honolulu in 2010. Good news for Butler fans, Klay Thompson won’t be playing for the Cougars, since he poured in 31 in a losing effort that night.
Last year was not a banner year in Pullman, as Washington State limped to a 13-19 finish under Ken Bone, including a nine-game league losing streak in the PAC-12.
In theory, the favorites in those two games would be Butler and Oklahoma State, and if that form holds, then the two in-state rivals would not play each other in this event. And that could be for the best, since they are already scheduled to play on December 14th in the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
In the other half of the bracket, Memphis will face Siena followed by LSU and St. Joseph’s. It is possible that Butler and St. Joe’s could play on the final day, which would be a rematch of Butler’s opening game in their lone A-10 season a year ago.
For Butler, events like these have provided great memories over the years. The Bulldogs own titles from Hawaii, Alaska (both the Great Alaska Shootout and the now defunct Top of the World Classic), and the preseason NIT. Last year, Butler made the finals of the Maui Invitational. While the ‘Dogs couldn’t down Illinois, they still had Rotnei Clarke’s buzzer beater to beat Marquette, and topped North Carolina.
Purdue might not have as many classic moments from early season events like Butler does, but a win over then number-two ranked Duke to claim the Great Alaska Shootout in 2003 immediately comes to mind. Purdue last won an early season title in 2009, claiming the Paradise Jam championship in the US Virgin Islands.
Both teams will have the early shift in Friday match-ups as well. The consolation bracket of the two losing teams from Thursday will play at 11am. The two winning teams will square off at 1:30pm.
Previous winners of this event include Notre Dame, Arkansas, NC State, and Gonzaga, who won last year’s event, and is the only two-time winner in the brief history of the event.
So hoops fans, you might want to save some turkey for dinner this Thanksgiving. You wouldn’t want to sleep through an all-Indiana doubleheader would you?