The Hoosier Classic is coming to McKenzie Arena, and it's bringing two mid-major basketball teams to face the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
The Classic is a new breed of exempt four-game tournaments played at various sites around the nation with participants getting a different number of home or neutral-site games.
UTC's Mocs will face Savannah State (1-4) tonight at 7. Then Savannah State will play Gardner-Webb (2-4) at 5 p.m. Saturday in McKenzie Arena. Gardner-Webb will play UTC at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Like the Mocs, Savannah State and Gardner-Webb have lost against the Indiana Hoosiers and at Butler as part of the Classic. Butler edged Gardner-Webb's Bulldogs 68-66 two nights ago.
"We get two SoCon-like home games before we play in the SoCon," UTC coach John Shulman said. "We're still trying to find ourselves, so before we go on our [road] swing we have these home games."
Each participating team accomplishes different scheduling goals with the tournament -- be it home games or cash considerations.
"Benefits are getting more games early, getting a chance to see different kinds of styles and different kinds of teams," Butler coach Brad Stevens said before hosting the Mocs last week. "We would never play Chattanooga in a home-and-home series."
Stevens is concerned with getting his program -- two-time national runners-up -- even more national exposure. Shulman is concerned with scheduling home games and coming out ahead financially in the agreement.
"We've got to do everything we can to be on TV as much as possible," Stevens said. "We only get eight or nine games outside of an exempt tournament, so if [playing UTC on TV] were the case, then we would consider it."
Shulman understood Stevens and took no offense to the notion that a one-for-one is out of the question.
"Now you understand why we can't get home games," Shulman said. "Everybody has their own agenda. Getting home games is impossible, but playing in this tournament is the only way we can get those guys here."
UTC's primary benefit of the Hoosier Classic is two games against teams from one-bid conferences -- SSU from the MEAC and Gardner-Webb from the Big South -- less than a week before the Mocs open their Southern Conference season Thursday at Georgia Southern and then go to the College of Charleston for a Saturday game.
"It's going to be another test for us, and it will test a lot of things," senior guard Ricky Taylor said. "Can we rely on one another to get the job done? It's going to be challenging because we have to be focused and attentive and keep mistakes to a minimum."
Said Shulman: "In theory, it's going to be really good for us. Savannah State is like a SoCon game, so it will be great for us because we play SoCon games in less than a week."
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...