The 2012 Armed Forces Classic is ready for launch in Germany, featuring two of college basketball's most storied programs in the Michigan State Spartans and Connecticut Huskies. Scheduled at Ramstein Air Base, these two schools will square off on opening night halfway across the world from their college campuses.
Michigan State is set to begin life without star forward Draymond Green, now in the NBA. Meanwhile, UConn is prepared to start life without legendary coach Jim Calhoun, who retired after 26 years as leader of the Huskies. Former Huskies guard and NBA retiree Kevin Ollie will make his head coaching debut for Connecticut.
With awesome, camouflage jerseys lined up and the emotion of playing for men and women tasked with protecting the United States, this should be a great game to kick the college basketball season off right.
The Spartans are ranked No. 14 in the AP poll, while the Huskies are not ranked to begin the year after losing guard Jeremy Lamb to the NBA. Here's a complete primer for the pre-Veteran's Day classic, complete with television information and more.
College basketball tips off on ESPN Friday, 5:30 ET, Michigan St-UConn. MSU's No. 9 recruiting class in ESPN 100 is its best in last 6 yrs.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 7, 2012
When: Friday, November 9 at 5:30 p.m. ET
Where: Hangar 5, Ramstein Air Base; Germany
Listen: ESPN Radio
Betting Line: TBD
None to report; MSU G Branden Dawson is returning from an ACL injury during the 2011-12 season.
What's At Stake?
Head coach Tom Izzo has had quite the successful five year run. His team has been to the Sweet 16 in four of the last five years and been to the Final Four twice during that span.
Now, he'll have to retool a little bit without his four-year workhorse Green. Michigan State does have three returning starters in Keith Appling, Branden Dawson and Adriean Payne. However, Appling's sophomore season was wildly inconsistent and Dawson is returning from an ACL injury late last season.
For UConn, the new era without Calhoun comes without a roster full of future NBA stars. Headlined by Shabazz Napier and Tyler Olander, new coach Ollie will have to fully utilize a roster that isn't expected to be a serious competitor in the Big East for the first time in recent memory.
On Friday, we could see a shift in the national landscape. Is Michigan State ready to take down in-state rival Michigan? Is this truly a rebuilding year for UConn? The precursors to those questions could be on display in Germany.
What They're Saying
Here's a look inside the Ramstein Air Force base before the teams arrive in Germany. The photo is courtesy of U.S. Army in Europe's Twitter feed.
Key Matchup: MSU G Keith Appling vs. UConn G Shabazz Napier
Both guards could be NBA-bound after this season. The juniors are the catalysts on offense for both coaches, and both can light it up from deep (though Appling struggled in 2011-12).
In a game where Michigan State could have a decided advantage in the post, it's up to Napier to kick-start things for the Huskies. Conversely, Appling can push Michigan State to a quick start if he returns to his freshman-like form, when he was hitting 41 percent of his three-pointers.
The team who's PG plays better should have an inside track on the win in Germany.
With Payne and Derrick Nix two of the taller, more athletic players in the conference, UConn's experience will show with Enosch Wolf and Leon Tolksdorf getting their first taste of what it's like to play against the big boys.
Michigan State validates its high AP ranking with a forceful, yet tough win.
Michigan State 75, UConn 62
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team.