Last season, North Carolina met Michigan State at what must be the most unique neutral-site game of all time.
The game was nothing too special. UNC beat Michigan State 67-55. The leading scorer was Harrison Barnes with 17 points.
The game really did not matter.
Not as much as the setting, that is.
The game took place outdoors on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson. Behind the baskets and on the sidelines were beautiful views of the San Diego skyline and the gorgeous island of Coronado.
Viewers were hard-pressed to view the Carrier Classic in the same way they would watch a “normal” game.
The Carrier Classic was college basketball’s opportunity to say "thank you" to the members of our armed services.
President Barack Obama even spoke before the game.
This special kind of setting deserves a special kind of game.
There are many teams that would jump at the opportunity to play the Carrier Classic.
This leads one to ask the question: Which teams are most qualified to play on this stage?
Any Service Academy
The Navy Midshipmen are obviously the most qualified to play on a vessel that is a member of their armada.
Recently, however, the Midshipmen have had a rather lackluster record. They only won three games last season and went winless in the Patriot League.
Army did not fare much better, though. They went 12-18 overall last season.
The Air Force Academy’s record of 13-16 was not phenomenal. To be fair, though, Air Force plays in the Mountain West with teams like San Diego State and UNLV.
While these teams are not top competitors, their commitment to service for our nation would play perfectly into the setting that the Carrier Classic creates.
Just imagine the tension of the Army/Navy football game brought onto the national stage that is the Carrier Classic.
It is a well-known fact that Coach K served in the army for five years after his graduation from West Point. Some years later, he was awarded West Point’s Distinguished Graduate Award.
Coach K is the kind of personality that thrives in the public spotlight. He would be able to speak about his service during the lead up to the game, and he would also be able to address the service members in the crowd.
With Coach K promoting the event, it would gain even more national attention than last year’s event. Coach K would be able to bring a strong message of gratitude from one service member to others.
Beyond all this, Duke would be a quality opponent and would promise a great game.
San Diego State
If the Carrier Classic returns to San Diego, hometown team San Diego State would top the list of teams who San Diegans would love to see play.
Steve Fisher has brought top talent to the Aztecs, and they are poised to be very talented for the next couple seasons.
San Diego State would be a solid matchup for any team that would meet them. They would draw a big crowd of local fans, and national audiences would be excited to watch a matchup with a ranked team.
The Carrier Classic will be held on the USS Yorktown, which is permanently docked in Charleston, South Carolina.
The South Carolina Gamecocks play about 100 miles away from Charleston.
New coach Frank Martin is eager to prove that South Carolina is turning the corner.
If the Gamecocks can turn their program around in the coming years, it would be interesting to see them play Clemson or NC State as a rivalry game in front of the United States military.
College Basketball's Salute to Servicemen
The Carrier Classic is an amazing event that has the ability to captivate the nation. Last season’s Carrier Classic was one of college basketball’s most memorable events, and it will likely be a staple of the sport for years to come.