Bracketologist Jerry Palm joins us-is Pitt-Syracuse a play-in game? Can West Virginia get a one seed? What are the strongest conferences in the country?
PRINCETON, N.J. – Michigan, Pittsburgh, Marquette, and No. 24 SMU headline the 22nd annual 2K Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project, which returns to Madison Square Garden this coming November.
Tickets for the 2K Classic Championship Rounds presented by Continental Tire go on sale Wednesday, March 9, and may be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 866-448-7849 or through Ticketmaster.com.
All four games of the Championship Rounds will be televised on ESPN networks.
Michigan, Pittsburgh, Marquette, and SMU combine for an 84-38 record this season and 92 NCAA Tournament appearances, including 12 Final Fours. Each of these four teams will host a pair of regional round games on campus before heading to the World’s Most Famous Arena on Nov. 17-18.
Joining Michigan, Pittsburgh, Marquette, and SMU in the 2016 2K Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project are IUPUI, Eastern Michigan, Gardner-Webb, and Howard.
Michigan (Head Coach: John Beilein, Big Ten Conference) – Under the guidance of head coach John Beilein, Michigan has won over 180 games and advanced to five NCAA Tournaments, including the championship game of the 2013 Final Four, in eight-plus seasons…Beilein, who ranks among college basketball’s Top 10 active coaches with over 730 career wins, has led his teams to 20 20-win seasons and had his Wolverines ranked this season…next season he will have an experienced and highly-talented roster as 13 of 15 players are expected to return, including guards Derrick Walton, Jr. and Zak Irvin, and swingman Duncan Robinson…Michigan has been to 25 NCAA Tournaments and seven Final Fours…the Wolverines participated in the 2008 2K Classic, falling to Duke in the championship game.
Pittsburgh (Head Coach: Jamie Dixon, Atlantic Coast Conference) – Head coach Jamie Dixon has guided the Panthers to over 320 wins in 13 seasons at the helm of the program, winning at least 20 games in 11 of those campaigns…he has also led Pitt to the postseason all 12 previous seasons, including 10 NCAA Tournament berths and a trip to last year’s NIT…the Panthers, who have been ranked in 2015-16, have only one senior in the rotation and will return a loaded roster in 2016-17, led by the forward tandem of Michael Young and Jamel Artis…Pittsburgh has been to 25 NCAA Tournaments, including one trip to the Final Four…the Panthers have played in two previous 2K Classics (2003, 2010) and are a perfect 5-0 in those games.
Marquette (Head Coach: Steve Wojciechowski, Big East Conference) – Marquette has made great strides in two years under head coach Steve Wojciechowski as the Golden Eagles have already eclipsed last year’s win total…this year’s Marquette squad has no seniors in the regular rotation and features National Freshman of the Year Candidate Henry Ellenson, who heads one of the best recruiting classes in school history…center Luke Fischer and guard Duane Wilson also figure prominently for the Golden Eagles…Marquette has been to 31 NCAA Tournaments and three Final Fours…the Golden Eagles have been to three previous 2K Classics (1995, 2002, 2003) and own a 2-1 record.
No. 24 SMU (Head Coach: Larry Brown, American Athletic Conference) – Hall of Fame head coach Larry Brown just completed his fourth season at SMU and has turned the Mustangs into a force in college basketball…the only coach to win an NCAA and NBA championship, Brown led SMU to its first league title in over 20 years in 2014-15 and in 2015-16 the nationally-ranked Mustangs were the last unbeaten team in the country…he has won over 250 games in 10-plus college seasons and over 1,700 throughout his career…the Mustangs return a lineup led by Sterling Brown, Ben Moore, andShake Milton…SMU has been to 11 NCAA Tournaments and one Final Four.
IUPUI (Head Coach: Jason Gardner, The Summit League) – In two short seasons, head coach Jason Gardner has the Jaguars on the right track…in his first season, IUPUI more than tripled its Division I win total of the previous season by posting 10 wins…this year’s edition has already surpassed that…next year, IUPUI is expected to return 12 of 14 players, including leading scorers Darell Combs and Matt O’Leary…IUPUI has been to one NCAA Tournament…the Jaguars last played in the 2K Classic in 2008.
Eastern Michigan (Head Coach: Rob Murphy, Mid-American Conference) – Head coach Rob Murphy guided the Eagles to consecutive 20-win season in 2013-14 and 2014-15 and 60 wins in the last three campaigns after inheriting a program that won nine games prior to his 2011-12 arrival…14 of 16 players are expected to be back next season, including four starters…leading the pack next season will be James Thompson IV and Raven Lee…the Eagles have been to four NCAA Tournaments…this will mark EMU’s first trip to the 2K Classic.
Gardner-Webb (Head Coach: Tim Craft, Big South Conference) – Tim Craft is in his third season at Gardner-Webb and has led the Runnin’ Bulldogs to over 50 wins in that span, including 20 a season ago…senior Tyrell Nelson is expected to lead nine returning letterwinners next season…Gardner-Webb played in the 2007 2K Classic, upsetting No. 20 Kentucky in Lexington.
Howard (Head Coach: Kevin Nickelberry, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) – Kevin Nickelberry has turned around a program that ranked near the bottom of Division I, both on the floor and in the classroom…currently in his sixth season, Nickelberry has led Howard to three double-digit win seasons, something not accomplished in 13 seasons…this year’s roster features only one senior and will be led next season by James Daniel III (currently the nation’s leading scorer) and Damon Collins…the Bison have been to two NCAA Tournaments…this will be Howard’s first 2K Classic appearance.