Before the ball drops on 2013 and we move into the new year filled with double digit SEC wins and general awesomeness, our Kentucky Wildcats will leave the friendly confines of the Commonwealth three times. They will travel to Chicago to face Michigan State in the Champions Classic on November 12th followed by a December 6th road trip to Texas Stadium in Dallas to face Baylor and a December 14th contest in Chapel Hill against the Tarheels of North Carolina. Some of you will go to all three, no questions asked. Some of you are like me, though, and need to pick one due to work obligations and wanting to keep a positive balance in your bank account. In this 3 part series, let’s look at the pro’s and con’s of each trip and at the end I’ll let you know which one I’m planning on taking.
(Keep in mind that as a Nashville resident I would likely have to fly to all three games. I realize Kentuckians aren’t as far from Chicago and Chapel Hill and driving could be feasible.)
Part 1: Kentucky vs. Michigan St.- Tuesday, November 12th, 2013 @ The United Center in Chicago, Illinois
The Champions Classic wraps up this year in Chicago. In 2011 Anthony Davis, Michael-Kidd Gilchrist and company defeated Kansas in Madison Square Garden. Little did we know it was a preview of that season’s national title game. Last season UK lost in the Georgia Dome to eventual Elite 8 participant Duke. This season they will face Tom Izzo’s Spartans of Michigan State in the United Center and get a taste of what life is like on the big stage. There are pros to fans trying to make this trip and there are cons. Let’s review them.
1. You can find cheap flights to Chicago. If you book far enough ahead and keep an eye out for deals you can fly round trip for anywhere between $120-$200.
2. Some of you can drive to Chicago. Fans from Louisville, Lexington, and anywhere north of those two cities can make it to Chicago in a car in a reasonable amount of time. I’m sure Matt and Drew will be going. Ask them for a ride. (It will help if you are a girl.)
3. You get to be there the first time our young team takes their traveling circus on the road.
4. You get to see our young team tested for the first time. Michigan State will be a very good team next year and will come in with much more experience with guys like Adrien Payne and Gary Harris. It’s a great chance to make an early statement.
5. Chicago is awesome. There are many things to do to keep you busy until game time. I hear there is a lot of shopping and I know for a fact there is pizza in a deeper dish than normal. Our own Kristen Geil resides in Chicago. You can’t stay with her because I called dibs, but we’ll get her to post some things you must see and do during your visit to the windy city.
6. Matt Jones’ Bears play Larry Warford’s Lions on Sunday, November 10th at Soldier Field. Hey Larry, can’t I get on that player pass list?
7. You get to see Kansas play Duke. Despite the fact that you probably hate both of these teams, it is another marquee early season contest between two of the most storied programs in the history of the game. If you like college basketball, this game should interest you.
1. Chicago hotels are not cheap. Anything downtown is going to be in the triple digits per night. I suggest finding friends to tag along to cut costs. And because having friends on trips is fun.
2. Tickets will be hard to come by. Last year in the Georgia Dome there was plenty of room for everyone. The United Center does not have plenty of room for everyone. Kentucky, Michigan State, Kansas, and Duke fans (of which there are many in Chicago) will be fighting for a limited number of tickets.
3. The game is on a TUESDAY. It’s hard enough for most people to make it to Chicago on a weekend. A mid-week game may cause a problem for some. That being said, that could help with ticket availability for those who do make arrangements to go.
4. We could lose. I don’t think we will, but we could. Michigan State will be further along system wise by this point with the experience they have returning. However, I think our freshman this year are different than our freshmen last year. Not to mention we have experienced returners coming back as well. I think we will win, but it isn’t crazy to say this could be a loss.
While the Pros outweigh the Cons here in numbers, the lodging prices and ticket availability are definitely road blocks. Before I make a final decision we’ll take a look at the Baylor game and North Carolina game this weekend. Check back for Part 2: Baylor on Friday night & Part 3: North Carolina on Saturday night.