"I am certainly impressed with the quality of teams appearing in this tournament, especially in its first year of existence," says WVU head coach John Beilein. "With the competition and ESPN television exposure, it will be a great experience for our team."
Five of the eight teams made 2006 post-season appearances (Arkansas, Minnesota, Montana, Southern Illinois and West Virginia), including the NCAA Tournament and the NIT. West Virginia advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16.
A variety of top conferences will be represented, including the ACC, BIG EAST, BIG Sky, Big Ten, MAAC, Mid-American Conference, Missouri Valley Conference and the SEC.
Two of the participating teams are 2006 Conference Champions (Montana - Big Sky and Southern Illinois - Missouri Valley).
Marist and Virginia Tech will return all five starters from last season. ESPN Regional Television owns and operates three other basketball events -- the O'Reilly Auto Parts All-College Classic, Papé Jam and the Spartan Clash.
ESPN Regional Television will be responsible for The ESPNU Classic's organization, operation, sponsorship, marketing efforts and more. Under the direction of ESPN Regional Television, Disney's Wide World of Sports will provide marketing, management and game day operations support for The ESPNU Classic. Additional details, including sponsorship, are to be finalized.
Ensor added, "The MAAC has a long association with hosting championships at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando and it is pleased to sponsor The ESPNU Classic at the complex. The MAAC's individual alliances with Disney Sports and ESPN are much valued and this new venture will televise some of the best of men's collegiate basketball in the country's premier sports venue."
Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex is the No. 1 venue for amateur and professional sporting events in the country and hosts more than 170 sporting events each year, including the Tampa Bay Bucs training camp, the Atlanta Braves spring training, the NBA Pre-Draft Camp, the Pop Warner Super Bowl and several AAU National Championships. The 220-acre state-of-the-art facility houses a 9,500-seat ballpark, a 5,000-seat fieldhouse, several multi-purpose playing fields, a track and field arena, a tennis stadium, an expansive weight room and office space.
"This new tournament only adds to the long list of premium, nationally-recognized sports events taking place at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex," said Reggie Williams, Vice President of Disney Sports Attractions. "With the tremendous exposure of ESPN Regional and the unique event management expertise that Disney is known for, there is every reason to believe that this tournament will quickly develop a rich tradition and a distinctive presence within the landscape of major men's college basketball."
Tickets for The ESPNU Classic will be available to the general public in August at Ticketmaster outlets and Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex box office. In July, special travel packages will be available for fans of the participating teams coming to the Orlando area for the event.