Before the UConn men’s basketball team reclaims its rightful place as ruler of Madison Square Garden, it has a different borough to conquer. In November, the Huskies will compete in the 2020 Legends Classic at the Barclays Center on Nov. 23-24. UConn is joined by Notre Dame, Southern Cal, and Vanderbilt, with Eastern Washington, High Point, Liberty, and Monmouth also in the field.
How it works is this; UConn will play sub-regional rounds in Storrs vs. High Point and Monmouth on November 14 and 18, respectively. The semifinal matchup will be announced at a later date from the group of Notre Dame, USC, and Vandy.
The Huskies are 18-10 vs. old Big East pal Notre Dame, and last played the Irish in 2013, a 65-58 win also known as the Ryan Boatright alley-oop game. UConn is 3-0 vs. Vandy, having last dispatched the Commodores in the 2004 Sweet 16 tournament on their way to title number two. They’ve never played USC, which is somewhat mind-boggling.
So what is this Legends Classic? Is it just a round-robin to keep Jay-Z entertained until Kyrie Irving torpedoes the Nets later in the year? In actuality, this will be the ninth year the Legends Classic is hosted in Brooklyn with FBI darling Bruce Pearl and Auburn taking home the title in 2019.
These November tournaments are a win-win for everyone involved. It’s a great litmus test for coaches as high-level competition before the cupcake portion of the schedule while college hoops fans get to loaf around and watch basketball during the Thanksgiving holiday.
Look no further than last year for how the Charleston Classic offered what ended up being a pretty accurate gauge for the Huskies. And if you must, hearken back to the 2010 Maui Classic as to how some underrated teams use it as a coming out party to startle sleeping national pundits awake.
Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, and USC don’t jump out off the page as “blue bloods”, but they will be formidable tests next year. Mike Brey is a criminally underrated coach and the Irish squeezed out 20 wins last year (side note: a potential Juwan Durham reunion).
Vandy is around just to make you feel old. They’re helmed by Jerry Stackhouse, led by Scottie Pippen Jr, and are the final destination for former Husky target D.J. Harvey.
Former Dunk City coach Andy Enfield has the Trojans in the midst of four-straight 20 win seasons. Given that it’s Southern California, expect a bevy of well-regarded recruits at their disposal, including seven footer Evan Mobley (No. 3 in Rivals 2020 recruiting rankings)
All in all, scalps against any of these teams would be a lovely feather in UConn’s cap as they look to get the ball rolling in the Big East next year. And with it being New York City, the Huskies will be the best-traveled of the group, helping set the precedent for what’s about to come in March.