While it was previously announced that Michigan and Kentucky would play basketball at London’s O2 Arena, the date and start time were announced on Friday. The game will take place on Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. London time, or 1 p.m. ET here at home. The game is being called the Basketball Hall of Fame London Showcase and tickets will go on sale on February 27th at 5am ET.
For those of us who are not flying across the Atlantic to attend the game, the most interesting thing about the game date announcement is it allows us to look at the fallout for the rest of Michigan’s schedule. With the game taking place in early December, Michigan has five important games that have to take place that month.
Michigan is locked-in to playing an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game, and also owes Oregon a return trip after the Ducks visited Ann Arbor this year. Additionally, Michigan will need to play two Big Ten games, with the start of the early Big Ten season usually occurring when Michigan is in London. The London game will not affect Michigan’s participation in the Empire Classic, which is an unusually early “holiday” tournament, taking place the Thursday and Friday before Thanksgiving.
The season will open on Nov. 10th, and Michigan will likely play an easy buy game. Their second game, sometime between Nov. 14 and Nov. 16, could be part of the Gavitt Games against the Big East. It seems as if Michigan will opt out of that competition to schedule a second easier tune-up before heading to New York. The Empire Classic on the 19th and 20th will see them play two out of Baylor, NC State, and Villanova. They’ll likely schedule another Thanksgiving week bodybag game.
This is where scheduling gets tricky. My guess is that Michigan will work with the conference to play on the first day of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Using previous years as a guide, that should be Nov. 30, though playing the second day on December 1st would still give them enough time to get to London and reset their body clocks. They’ll play the London game on Dec. 6.
Unfortunately, it’s likely to be a quick turnaround from there. In 2019, the Big Ten early season started on Dec. 6 and extended until Dec. 18, a window that was just under two weeks. If Michigan returns on Dec. 7, it is likely the conference will expect them to play a Big Ten game by Dec. 11. They can then play the second by the next Dec. 16. Letting Michigan play both of their B1G December games late would be a similar consideration to what the conference gave the Spartans this year, who bisected their conference games with the Oakland game in Detroit.
From there, the Wolverines have a couple more buy games to schedule, and will have to work with Oregon to round out their home-and-home. There are two places the Oregon game could land. It could be scheduled on the weekend of Dec. 19-20, giving Michigan plenty of space to settle down with a couple of easy games before the Big Ten season renews. Michigan could also put it between two buy games, possibly on a weeknight during the holiday break. This would allow Michigan to have a come-down game after the Big Ten pair, go to Oregon, and then come home for one final easy game before the January Big Ten stretch.
No matter how it’s scheduled, December is going to be packed, and Juwan Howard’s team is going to be very young. The London game will be a cool event, but it is reasonable to be a little worried as to how it will affect the rest of the schedule, especially given that they’re likely going to have to play conference games immediately after. It’ll be a tough test, but surviving it could prove that even though they’re young, they’re ready for the big stage.