Northwestern will be in the Big Apple for Thanksgiving of 2021 as the field for the Legends Classic was announced on Friday. The Legends Classic, hosted in the Barclays Center, is widely known as one of the better holiday tournaments, consistently hosting power conference teams every year. Three of the participants in the 2019 field would have likely heard their names called on Selection Sunday had coronavirus not had other plans.
The Wildcats hope to represent the Big Ten a little better than Wisconsin this past year, as the Badgers lost both of its “championship round” games to Richmond and New Mexico.
Sources: UCLA, Virginia, Oklahoma State, and Northwestern will headline the 2021 Legends Classic at the Barclays Center.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) May 8, 2020
The Legends Classic is unlike most other holiday tournaments, in that it is not the typical tournament layout. Eight teams participate, with each team playing two round-robin games during the normal non-conference schedule. Four teams are then selected to travel to New York over the week of Thanksgiving to play the typical holiday tournament. For example, Wisconsin hosted and defeated Green Bay and McNeese State in mid-November before moving on to the Championship Rounds in New York.
Northwestern will hope to strike gold again with the Legends Classic. In 2016, they made it to the tournament’s championship game before losing by 4 to a Matt Farrell-led Notre Dame team. Both Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey were named to the All-Tournament team. Of course, the Wildcats ultimately ended the school’s NCAA Tournament drought later that season.
The Legends Classic is generally a good barometer for where teams stand as they prepare for their conference slates. It is still early to get a good read on the level of competition, besides just looking at the programs’ name recognition. I would bet on Tony Bennett figuring things out for Virginia, but it is hard to forecast how good either UCLA or Oklahoma State will be 18 months from now. Regardless, Chris Collins can expect at least two quality opponents, which is something that not all holiday tournaments can offer.
It is important to note that this is the 2021 tournament field, so it is still a way’s away. It will feature a veteran Wildcat team, led by upperclassmen Miller Kopp, Pete Nance, Ryan Young, Boo Buie, Robbie Beran, and company. That is the season that most fans are looking towards as the year to really compete atop the Big Ten. The Wildcats will be participating in the Hall of Fame Classic this coming season, which has its semifinals and championship in Kansas City, MO. Northwestern will most likely play some combination of Cal, South Carolina, and TCU in this year’s Hall of Fame Classic.