The Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau announced Wednesday afternoon that it will host a neutral site women’s basketball match-up on Dec. 6 between Tennessee and Middle Tennessee inside Propst Arena at the Von Braun Center in downtown Huntsville, Alabama.
The contest is part of a two-game 2023 college basketball showcase in the 8,300-seat venue, with Auburn meeting UNC Asheville in men’s action on Dec. 13 in a showdown billed specifically as The Rocket City Classic.
The battle of Volunteer State women’s teams will pit a pair of programs that closed out the 2022-23 campaign in the NCAA Tournament, with the Lady Vols advancing to the Sweet 16 in Seattle and the Blue Raiders playing in the first round in Durham, N.C., before falling.
The contest will mark the first meeting in a new four-game series between the schools, with dates in Knoxville in 2024 and 2026 and the other being contested in Murfreesboro in 2025. The Lady Vols lead the all-time series, 22-0, and won the last meeting, 87-62, in Austin, Texas, on March 21, 2021, in the NCAA First Round during Kellie Harper‘s first season as head coach of the Big Orange.
Harper and Middle Tennessee head coach Rick Insell have known each other since her high school days in Sparta, Tennessee. She played AAU ball for Insell and also was a member of White County High School teams that played against Insell’s legendary prep squads at Shelbyville Central. Her programs at Western Carolina and Missouri State also matched up against Insell’s MTSU teams five times. Including UT’s win in the 2021 NCAA matchup vs. the Blue Raiders, Harper and Insell are 3-3 against one another.
“I’m pleased to begin a four-game series with Middle Tennessee,” Harper said. “We are always looking for ways to challenge our team with our schedule and to also help the game of basketball grow around the country. Our meeting in Huntsville offers a great opportunity for folks from our state to make a short road trip and for those in Alabama to watch two NCAA Tournament teams battle on a neutral court. We certainly hope our players with ties to the region will also have a great turnout as they make their return.”
The Rocket City Classic (and UT/MTSU game) came together through a partnership with Nations of Coaches, the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Huntsville Sports Commission. Nations of Coaches is a non-profit that supports college basketball coaches and student-athletes with character building programs that focus on them as a person who plays basketball, not just a basketball player.
“With the Conference USA Tournament in Huntsville this year, we wanted to introduce our fans to this great city and thanks to Tennessee, we are able to create a terrific showcase for women’s basketball,” said Chris Massaro, Director of Athletics at MTSU, whose staff will serve in a host role for the match-up.
Single-game tickets will be available for $20 each. Beginning Monday, Sept.4, at 11 a.m. ET, fans can conveniently make their purchases online through Ticketmaster.com via the Von Braun Center. Groups of 20 or more will have the opportunity to take advantage of a discounted rate, with tickets priced at just $12 per person.