MTSU, WKU play host to Sun Belt Classic
By JOSH EZZELL, The Murfreesboro (TN) Post
Aug. 8, 2007 - 4:26 p.m.
NASHVILLE — MTSU and Western Kentucky are arch rivals, but to get what they want they have been forced to work together.
To enable the inaugural Sun Belt Classic at Sommet Center in Nashville to become a reality the Blue Raiders and Hilltoppers joined forces to set up a blockbuster doubleheader Dec. 15 in which MTSU will face Memphis at 6 p.m. on ESPN2 and WKU will battle Tennessee 8:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
“We wanted to create a great atmosphere,” MTSU athletic director Chris Massaro said at a press conference Wednesday at Sommet Center. “All said from the get-go we wanted to make it an NCAA tournament-like event.”
Tickets for the game will be $30 for low-level seats and $15 for upper-level seats. Tickets to the game will be included in the MTSU and WKU season-ticket packages. Top priority will go to season-ticket holders at both schools. Tickets go on sale on a date yet to be determined.
“Both sides (MTSU and WKU) were slated to play non-conference foes in Nashville,” WKU athletic director Wood Selig said. “We started talking about the unique part of putting two non-conference games in here. Our philosophy was let’s get it done. Tennessee and Memphis were agreeable. This is a blockbuster event.”
MTSU went 15-17 last season, while WKU was 22-11. Memphis and Tennessee each made the NCAA tournament last season and will be top-10 teams this season. Last season Memphis made the Elite Eight, while Tennessee fell to eventual national runner-up Ohio State in the Sweet 16.
“We know how hard it is in the South to get big home games in December,” MTSU men’s basketball coach Kermit Davis said. “That’s what we’ve got here.”
The game with Memphis is the last of a three-game deal with the Tigers in which MTSU visited the Bluff City twice. The game in Nashville counts as a home game for MTSU and Western Kentucky.
“The entire nation is going to be watching,” WKU head coach Darrin Horn said. “All four are NCAA possibilities. When you get this you create an NCAA tournament atmosphere.”
Tennessee and Memphis also think the doubleheader could benefit all four schools.
“It is going to be a great night of basketball for the state of Tennessee, having three of the state’s teams playing in the capital city of Nashville,” Memphis head coach John Calipari said in a press release. “It’s going to be a tremendous showcase for the state and its basketball talent with both contests of the doubleheader televised on one of the ESPN networks.”
Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl agrees.
“Almost all of the Division I programs in the state had great seasons (last season),” Pearl said in a press release. “When we have doubleheaders like this it will showcase the level of play in this area.”
MTSU’s season starts 7 p.m. Nov. 15 at home against San Jose State. The Blue Raiders visit Tennessee Nov. 20. MTSU visits Western Kentucky Jan. 3 and plays host to the Hilltoppers Feb. 16.