The 2K Empire Classic has consistently been a quality NCAA Basketball non-conference tournament, even with just four teams participating. It’s a special event for multiple reasons, including the location at Madison Square Garden in New York City, along with its partnership with the Wounded Warriors Project to benefit men and women from the United States military.
The most notable program winner from this two-day event has been the Duke Blue Devils, who have won three times since 2008, with the last one coming in 2019. Last year’s winner was the Villanova Wildcats, who defeated the Arizona State Sun Devils, 83-74 in the championship game, led by 28 points from Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, along with 16 points and 12 rebounds from Justin Moore.
Boston College defeated Rhode Island in the third-place game, in what ended up being a very interesting event. The Empire Classic had to relocate to the Mohegan Sun “bubble” due to the pandemic and had to replace the Baylor Bears after they dealt with positive tests right before. It still ended up being a solid event but it’s now good to know exactly who we’ll be seeing in the 2021 event.
The four programs set to participate in next season’s Empire Classic includes Gonzaga, Louisville, Oklahoma State, Providence. The Bulldogs and Cowboys both made the NCAA Tournament this past season, while both the Cardinals and Friars have a history of making the Big Dance as well.
While we don’t know the semifinal matchups yet, this should be a fun event; even if the location has been moved to the Prudential Center in New Jersey. Here’s how I would rank the four programs at the moment.