Gonzaga, Michigan State to play on USS Abraham Lincoln on Nov. 11

SAN DIEGO — They’ll be trying to play college basketball again on an aircraft carrier, and nautical veteran Tom Izzo and Michigan State will make a return trip to San Diego Bay to take on Gonzaga on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln on Veterans Day .

The game will be shown prime time on November 11 as part of ESPN’s Armed Forces Classic from the flat tip moored at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, across the bay from downtown San Diego. The Abraham Lincoln is in service and is scheduled to return to port later this summer.

Izzo’s Spartans lost to North Carolina 67-55 on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson on November 11, 2011 in their first collegiate basketball game on an active airline. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watched from the sidelines. The Carl Vinson conducted Osama bin Laden’s funeral at sea after he was killed by Navy SEALs in an Obama-ordered raid six months earlier.

This will be the first aircraft carrier game since 2012, when only two of four games scheduled for the fall were played, including one in San Diego that had to be postponed two days due to rain rather than being moved indoors.

While the 2011 Carrier Classic was played in a spectacular setting, it ended less than an hour before rain soaked the pitch, just one of the dangers organizers face when staging Carrier Hoop games. Organizers said there would be a backup court on the hangar deck as an emergency, but that court was never set up.

Izzo was delighted at the chance to play in another career game.

“The experience we had in 2011 when we played North Carolina on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson was one of the most humbling experiences of my career,” Izzo said in a statement. “Of course we wanted to win and every game against a program like this is very special, but for me this game was about so much more than just winning or losing.”

“This opportunity to play on an aircraft carrier in front of men and women who serve in the military and are willing to put their lives on the line is an experience that will mean something to the young men who will take part in the game for a long time , long time,” added Izzo. “I said it last time and I’ll say it again, we’re going to play against one of the best teams in the country and we’re going to be hosted by the world No. 1.”

Gonzaga coach Mark Few echoed Izzo’s thoughts.

“This is a special opportunity for our program to support those who are fighting for our country in our own little way,” the Zags coach said in a statement. “We look forward to an incredible program at Michigan State and a great colleague in Coach Izzo. I’m sure this will be a great memory for all of us.”

The aircraft carrier craze faded after 2012, when Mother Nature played a serious defense against lockdown, at least on the east coast.

In a scheduled Carrier Classic doubleheader aboard the decommissioned USS Yorktown in Charleston, South Carolina on November 9, 2012, Notre Dame beat Ohio State in a women’s game that started in the afternoon. But a men’s game between Ohio State and Marquette scheduled for the evening never started because of condensation on the court.

That same night, a game against Georgetown and Florida aboard the active USS Bataan in Gainesville, Florida was abandoned after the first half due to condensation.

In San Diego, a game between Syracuse and San Diego State scheduled for the evening of November 9 aboard the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum on the San Diego side of the bay was postponed two days due to rain. Played in glorious sunshine on the afternoon of November 11, a brisk wind blowing across the bay helped the host Aztecs concede just one of 18 3-point shots in a 62-49 loss to the Greater Orange and his zone defense scored.

ESPN Events vice president Clint Overby said all parties would consider contingencies in the event of inclement weather or world events that would render the aircraft carrier unavailable.

He said going back to an aircraft carrier game was “just an option that came up. There was no big plan with it. It was something that was provided in the form of a discussion and we explored it and found it doable. More importantly, we found teams who were willing to engage in this experience and who understood the logistical challenges very well.”

“There was always an intrigue from coaches and participating institutions to convey a thank you to the men and women of the military,” Overby added. “The number of teams that have signed up for these events, whether overseas or even domestic, we think has been very well received by the intercollegiate basketball community. So we are very happy about that.”

https://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/34239444/gonzaga-michigan-state-play-uss-abraham-lincoln-nov-11 Gonzaga, Michigan State to play on USS Abraham Lincoln on Nov. 11

Emma Bowman

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