State Farm Champions Classic returns in new venue, same great teams

Today’s 24-hour marathon of college basketball culminates with the State Farm Champions Classic, the prime time doubleheader showcasing four of the all-time winningest men’s college basketball programs.

The matchups at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, site of this year’s Final Four, will pit No. 14 Michigan State vs. No. 7 Kansas (7 p.m. ET) and No. 8 Duke vs. No. 3 Kentucky (9 p.m.). Both games will also be available on ESPN 3D and WatchESPN.

ESPN launched the Champions Classic in 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Kentucky defeated Kansas (75-65) in what became a preview of the National Championship game and Duke beat Michigan State (74-69). The third installment of the event is already slated for 2013 at the United Center in Chicago: Michigan State vs. Kentucky and Kansas vs. Duke.

“Having Michigan St., Kansas, Kentucky and Duke in one place, playing head-to-head to start the season is a dream doubleheader for ESPN,” said Senior Coordinating Producer Jay Levy.  

“It is one that the fans enjoyed last year in New York City, one that they’ll enjoy this year in Atlanta and again next year in Chicago.”

Looking beyond the matchups, director Doug Holmes is a little more technical in his approach.

He talks about the differences in covering games from a dome this year compared to the 2011 event which originated from one of the world’s most famous arenas.  

“The main production difference in a dome versus an arena is locating the best camera angles. All venues have their upsides and downsides — arenas are more intimate where a larger venue can feel big time if the fans come out.”

Holmes adds: “This year’s Champions Classic is also on ESPN 3D, so we have additional cameras (12 2D and six 3D).”

As for whether this year’s event will be a preview of college basketball’s “shining moment” in April, fans will have to wait and see this spring.

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