St. John's head coach Steve Lavin, who has been battling prostate cancer, will lead his team into this season's Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
The final exempt tournament field for 2011-12, the one belonging to the Gazelle Group's 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer, was finally announced today after a long delay. If you examine the event's rather complex schedule, it becomes readily apparent why we only found out about the finalized field 39 days before tip-off. Gazelle simply had a difficult time in finding a final visiting team.
They had a similar problem with this season's Legends Classic. Seven legitimate mid-major powers were signed up to visit four BCS schools before moving on to what should be a pair of amazingly balanced subregional round-robins. Unfortunately, Gazelle couldn't land an eighth Division I school, so they had to call upon Division 2 West Alabama to finalize the field. Oregon State agreed to host the Tigers, who were assigned to the Bucknell-hosted subregional for their final three games.
When it came to the 2K Sports Classic, it looks like Gazelle wasn't so lucky in finding an acceptable eighth visitor. That means Texas A&M will play only one game before they face Mississippi State in the semifinals on November 17. The Aggies will host Liberty on November 9. The Bulldogs, Arizona, and St. John's will play the full complement of exempt tournament games, four, while A&M will fall a game short of this total.
The absence of an eighth Division I team created a bigger issue for the mid-major subregional round. So, much like in previous editions of the CBE and Legends Classics, Gazelle had to grab some lower-division schools to plug in the gaps. That means there will be three subregional events. The first will be a straightforward all D1 round-robin hosted by Liberty, and featuring Eastern Kentucky, Lehigh, and William & Mary. It's not exactly the Legends Classic's stacked Rhode Island subregional, but it's not bad.
The other two feature a trio of schools that represent three levels of intercollegiate competition. Akron will host Division 3 Hiram in a single-game subregional before they move on to the third site, Valparaiso, for two more games. The Zips will take on the host Crusaders and Duquesne on consecutive November nights. Meanwhile, Indiana-Kokomo, an NAIA school which is in its first season of competition, and the University of the District of Columbia, a Division 2 program coached by former Iona head coach Jeff Ruland, were invited to complete the field. Yes, a first-year program will be involved in this tournament, which kind of tells you how difficult it must have been to wrap the field up.
Duquesne will play UDC while Valpo will face Indiana-Kokomo before the two lower-level schools meet on the final night.
Here's a link to the schedule again, since you're probably a bit confused to how the event will work after reading all of that. That's par for the course for the 2K Sports Classic at this point. Remember all of the confusion caused by the Gazelle/Coaches vs. Cancer/NABC split earlier this month?
I've added this info, along with the dates for the Cancun Challenge's campus site games, to the Early Season Events page, which should see few updates between now and early November.