The CBS Sports Classic was anything but a classic.
Not exactly an accident that the final box score of Carolina’s impressive three-point bombing of Ohio State Saturday in New Orleans did not carry any attendance figure. Looking at it on TV and hearing first-hand accounts, that number would have been next to nothing. Too bad more than a relative handful of fans at the Smoothie King Center missed one of the Tar Heels’ best-ever outside shooting exhibitions from the arc.
The second game, UCLA’s surprising victory over Kentucky, did have attendance listed, barely 8,000, mostly Wildcat fans who follow their team anywhere even if it is two days before Christmas. But, clearly, December 23 and New Orleans hardly being a college basketball town was the wrong choice for year four of the CBS Sports Classic.
It will return to its original site, the United Center in Chicago, on December 22 next year, where Carolina and Kentucky tangle in the headliner. After last season’s two classics against the Cats of John Calipari, it promises to be another rich renewal. Remember Malik Monk’s 47 points against the Pinson-less Heels in Las Vegas and Elite Eight Memphis thriller won by Luke Maye’s jumper from Michael Jordan’s spot on the left wing?
The likely final year of this four-team rotation will be back in Vegas in 2019, when the Tar Heels face UCLA and Kentucky meets Ohio State. Exact date for that double-header is yet to be set, but no matter whenever played it will be better than New Orleans, which had its one chance and blew it.
Just because several classic Final Fours have been played in the Big Easy doesn’t guarantee interest in an early season doubleheader, even among blue blood programs like Carolina, Kentucky and UCLA. With the NFL playoff-bound Saints, and Drew Brees, and the NBA Pelicans with Anthony Davis, New Orleans and college basketball don’t really go together, do they?
For this year, it was just what the doctor ordered for the Tar Heels, a practice-like atmosphere where they could shake out the cobwebs of that embarrassing loss to Wofford, which by the way has become a college team from South Carolina with one more win in Chapel Hill than another named Clemson, which will try to match the Terriers of the Southern Conference here on January 16. Good luck with that one.