As the Washington Huskies men’s basketball team officially started practice this weekend, we will start to look at the revamped squad as it enters the 2015-2016 season. The Huskies will open its regular season with a unique opportunity to play in China as they play the Texas Longhorns with its new head coach Shaka Smart. It will be the first time that any U.S. college or professional sports team has played a regular season game in the country.
Similar to its New York trip a couple years ago, the team will make the trip an educational one as well with cultural and educational visits during their stay in the country.
The "Pac-12 China Game" as it was announced this past May by the conference, serves as a major milestone for the Pac-12’s Globalization Initiative in an effort to showcase the Conference and its partners in China. Per the Pac 12 announcement, the game will "promote goodwill and transformative life experiences through student-athlete exchanges and sport."
The Huskies have already started prepping.
This is a valuable trip for the young team. From a basketball perspective, traveling across the world to play a game might not be the best thing for a young team. Then again, the benefit for Romar’s crew is that they get to travel across the world to play a game. The cultural exchange and exposure will be invaluable. Everyone should go to college to broaden their horizons and this trip certainly fits the description.
Perhaps the game will be secondary to the site seeing and team bonding that should occur during the trip. Obviously, the Huskies and Longhorns are serving as ambassadors for the sport as Commissioner Larry Scott and the Pac 12 seek to expand its reach by engaging with its Chinese partners at the Federation of University Sports of China (FUSC). The FUSC operates under China’s Ministry of Education and will co-host the game.
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (the company actually has an office in Seattle) is sponsoring the event and expect a "significant turnout" from local fans according to Bloomberg Business. Notably, Alibaba has created a sports division and it’s likely that the game will serve as a part of its new venture. Alibaba will stream the basketball game through its various platforms including its mobile apps and web site.
Both teams will visit Alibaba headquarters in Hagzhou for a daylong educational program about the country’s e-commerce industry, consumer buying habits among other things that the players will learn. While the game is important, there are educational opportunities that the players can take advantage of from the trip.
You may recall that the Huskies took advantage of an extended trip (when they played two games at MSG against Marquette and Duke) in New York in 2011 to take classes in drama and watch a couple Broadway plays.
The teams will play in Shanghai at the Mercedes Benz Arena which seats 18,000 people. It will be an early 11am start locally for the teams to accommodate television in the United States. The game will be on Friday, November 13th airing on ESPN at 7pm Seattle time. It will be a great chance for the nation(s) to see the young Huskies.
The Longhorns are coming off a 20-14 season and made it to the NCAA tournament where they lost to Butler in the second round.