It's really not that hard to earn some applause and respect for creativity in college basketball.
Credit to Penn State, which announced Monday that it will play a "home" game this season against Michigan State -- at the Palestra. That's a Big Ten league game, of course. The tilt will tip on Jan. 7, 2017.
It's a different but really good idea, and what a great opportunity for both programs, their fans and even Philly hoops fans. Remember, Michigan State is expected to be really, really good again. It will have one of the most entertaining players in the sport in freshman Miles Bridges, not to mention a roster returning Eron Harris, Gavin Schilling, Matt McQuaid and Tum-Tum Nairn.
Penn State has 20-win potential for the first time under Pat Chambers. So why is he sacrificing a home matchup -- a game nearly 200 miles southeast from PSU's campus -- against maybe the Big Ten's best team next season? The Nittany Lions have six players from Philly. This will be a homecoming. Plus, Chambers grew up nearby, in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
"The dedicated fans in State College have been fantastic and we cannot wait to open this fall in University Park," Chambers said. "This, however, offers us an opportunity to showcase Penn State Basketball to those fans in the Philadelphia area who don't have the opportunity to regularly travel to the Bryce Jordan Center."
Penn State, on occasion, plays at the Palestra or in Philly because it makes good recruiting sense. This is Michigan State's first trip to the Palestra since Izzo became coach in the mid-1990s.
"We cannot wait to take the Big Ten into Philadelphia this season," Chambers said. "It is always an incredible experience to play in the Palestra and we are honored to do it this time as the home team. We have so many ties to the city as a program and we look forward to connecting with the alumni and fans in the area. I want to thank the Big Ten Conference for working with us to make this game happen, and allowing our vision of playing a Big Ten game in the Palestra to come to fruition."
Chambers is making a good call here, one a lot of coaches might not do. For many, giving up a home game would be like asking them to cut off a finger. But this should be pretty special. There's nothing in college basketball like the Palestra, and both programs should benefit from the schedule wrinkle.