College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

SPORTS BKC-NCAROLINA 15 LA

Michigan State and North Carolina practice on a basketball court arena spread across the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson on Thursday, November 10, 2011. It will be the venue for an NCAA basketball game on Veterans Day between the two schools. 

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The opening week of the 2022-23 college basketball season will feature Wisconsin and Stanford playing each other on a makeshift court at American Family Field (neé Miller Park) in Milwaukee, Wis. The Badgers' women's team will also play Kansas State in the twin bill. The last time such a game happened was nearly seven years ago when San Diego State played San Diego at Petco Park in what was deemed the "Bill Walton Basketball Festival." 

Basketball on a baseball field. What a world.

Illinois doesn't really have that opportunity. Nobody is looking to play some outdoor hoops at Wrigley Field or Guaranteed Rate Field in early November. The closest domes are football facilities in Indianapolis and St. Louis, and I, for one, am against basketball in a football venue. 

The other unique neutral site game that could be in the works in 2022-23 could be a future option for Illinois, though. Michigan State and Gonzaga are in discussions to play on an aircraft carrier on Veterans Day in San Diego.

It's been done before. The Spartans played North Carolina in the Carrier Classic in 2011 on the USS Carl Vinson. They tried again in 2012 with an expanded event. The women's game between Ohio State and Notre Dame on the USS Yorktown happened. Two men's games were canceled (one at halftime and both because of condensation issues) and Syracuse-San Diego State was postponed before it eventually happened aboard the USS Midway.

The headline for a Mike Waters story at Syracuse.com kind of summed up the venture: "When Syracuse and San Diego State played on aircraft carrier: Wind-blown shots, errant free throws and sunburn"

Whether Illinois would be interested in this type of one-off neutral site game is the question. The Illini will play in one in 2022-23 against Texas in the Jimmy V Classic, but that's at historic Madison Square Garden. You don't pass up a chance to play at The Garden. But a carrier game would be the epitome of unique. It's something the NBA would never do, which makes it an option to put college basketball in the spotlight. (And I wouldn't mind a trip to San Diego and the chance to watch basketball on an aircraft carrier. How cool).

The bigger question for Illinois basketball, of course, is if the Chicago game will ever come back. It was, for quite some time, a regular part of the schedule. Then the Illini gave up a Big Ten home game to lose to Ohio State in front of 25 percent full United Center. The Chicago game was dead. Renewed interest in the program given the success the past three seasons might, at some point, bring it back.

Scott Richey covers college basketball for The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

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