Unusual locations make non-conference games more memorable

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Two of the most notable games on Friday’s college basketball schedule take place on an aircraft carrier and in a baseball stadium.

2 Gonzaga will take on Michigan State on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in San Diego Harbor to celebrate Veterans Day. Wisconsin plays Stanford at American Family Field, the retractable-roof park that is home to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Hosting venue-neutral games in non-traditional venues is nothing new. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has scheduled games at many different venues over the past two decades.

“We’ve been ‘Outside the Box U’ for 20 years and other people are catching up with us,” Izzo said. “It’s good, and that’s why I didn’t want to let this game pass.”

Izzo’s fondness for it began in 2003, when Michigan State lost to Kentucky in front of 78,129 fans at Ford Field, home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions. Soon, many NCAA post-tournament games began to take place in football stadiums.

This won’t be the first time Izzo has coached a match on an aircraft carrier.

Michigan State lost to top-ranked North Carolina in November 2011 on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson as President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama looked on.

Stanford coach Jerod Haase was North Carolina’s assistant coach for that 2011 game. Now he’s preparing his team to play the first basketball game in a baseball-only stadium since San Diego faced San Diego State in 2015 at Petco Park, home of the Padres.

“It’s an experience for our guys to talk when they’re old like me, how they played in a ballpark,” Haase said.

Offset settings come with potential obstacles, especially when outdoors. The roof will be closed for the American Family Field doubleheader which includes a women’s game between Wisconsin and Kansas State.

The 2011 game between North Carolina and Michigan State on an aircraft carrier ended less than an hour before the rain fell.

A year later, condensation on the respective grounds wiped out an Ohio State-Marquette game aboard the decommissioned USS Yorktown in Charleston, South Carolina, and a Georgetown-Florida game aboard the USS Bataan in Gainesville , in Florida. Florida and Georgetown played the first half before the game was called off.

During that 2012-13 season, a Syracuse-San Diego State game aboard the USS Midway museum flight deck was delayed two days due to rain. Also, windy conditions affected 3-point shooting when playing.

The teams involved believe the opportunity is worth the potential downside.

Gonzaga’s coach, Mark Few, jumped at the chance when the idea of ​​playing on a carrier came up.

“Tom Izzo told me it was the coolest thing he had ever done,” Few said. “I said, ‘OK, I’m in.'”

Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said his hopes of seeing the Badgers play a game at American Family Field began about 15 years ago when he was an assistant coach and the stadium was known as the name of Miller Park.

Various plans have been discussed over the years.

“We were going to do a basketball-hockey double and put some ice in the outfield,” Gard said. “Everything was on the table at one point.”

The Gard is about to realize this dream – minus an ice rink.

Wisconsin and Stanford practiced Thursday on a field that encompasses much of the baseball stadium’s infield, with hoops near first base and third base.

The pitcher’s mound has been removed and fans will be seated in temporary pitchside stands, as well as some of the stadium’s permanent seats.

“Listening to our players as we came out of the dugout, what their reactions were, I think it turned out really, really good,” Gard said.

Wisconsin forward Tyler Wahl, who has only attended one Brewers home game, tried to imagine what to expect on Friday.

“I’m excited to see what it’s like with basketball, bringing a whole different team of fans,” Wahl said. “I hope it will be cool.”

It may not be a one-time deal.

Brewers president of business operations Rick Schlesinger said he hopes the contest is the first of many opportunities to host hoop games at the ballpark.

Gard says he would like to see an NCAA region at American Family Field, although it may be difficult to organize this kind of event at the end of March while having the grass surface of the baseball field ready in time. for baseball season.

For now, Wisconsin and Stanford expect to have a unique experience in an atypical start to the season. Michigan State and Gonzaga feel the same way.

“I’m kind of old school and believe that college education is so much more than what you learn in the classroom and the games themselves,” Haase said. “It’s all the experiences that surround them. I think it provides that.


AP Writer Nicholas K. Geranios and AP Sports Writers Larry Lage and Bernie Wilson contributed to this report.


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