Wildcats and Wolverines to (roar) in O2 Arena

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O2 Arena host US basketball Image: The O2 / AEG Europe

The Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball team has inked a unique three-year deal with the University of Michigan’s men’s basketball team Wolverines that will take the former to London’s O2 Arena next season. It will be followed by a home game for each school.

CBSSPORTS.COM reports that the Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball team is an American college basketball team that represents the University of Kentucky. The Michigan Wolverines Men’s Basketball team is the intercollegiate men’s basketball program representing the University of Michigan.

CBSSPORTS.COM further reported that the O2 Arena in London will likely hold the first game of the series in December 2020. Michigan’s Crisler Center will host the game on December 4 in the year 2021 followed by a December 3, 2022 matchup at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will host the neutral-site game between the two schools and it will serve as a fundraiser for the Hall. It will be the first NCAA Division I college basketball game to be played in one of the world’s most popular venues.

The exact date of the first game of the series in London will be announced at a later date. Michigan and Kentucky both are in the latest AP Top 25 rankings, with Michigan occupying the No 4 slot and Kentucky at No 8. With the trajectory of both programs, this should be one of the best out-of-conference series over the next few years.

“This series with Michigan checks off a lot of boxes when we’re looking at teams to schedule,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said.

“The first thing is, to add an opponent like Michigan and to do so at a point in the schedule where we’re beginning to find out who we are as a team will be important in our development,” added the coach.

“And then to be able to do something different – to be first, which our fans know we love to do – and play this first game is London will be an unforgettable experience for our players and for our fans. I imagine the home-and-home games the following seasons will be as good as any non-conference games in the country,” Capliari maintained.

First-year Michigan coach Juwan Howard termed the series as a “unique one”. For his Wolverines program, it’s a chance to play abroad, to welcome a blueblood program into Ann Arbor, Michigan, and then to play in one of college basketball’s cathedrals to wrap the series.

“When the idea of playing Kentucky came up, we knew it would be an exciting opportunity, not only for ourselves, but for our fans as well. What a unique three-game series. First, we get to showcase collegiate basketball overseas in London before playing that traditional home-and-home series in front of two of the nation’s best basketball environments. We cannot wait,” Howard further observed.

Michigan and Kentucky have played on the hardwood only on seven occasions. Kentucky holds an edge over Michigan – 5-2 all-time series edge – and recently made the latter bite the dust 75-72 in the Elite Eight 2014 NCAA Tournament.

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