Florida’s men’s and women’s basketball teams bear the Jordan Brand symbol proudly, and have done so as the lone SEC school to be part of the Jordan Brand family since the school’s switch from Nike branding for its football and basketball programs in 2018.
In December 2022, the Gators will get to vie for supremacy of the brand with some of its other big-name representers in a new college basketball event.
Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, and Oklahoma’s men’s and women’s basketball teams will all take part in a new three-year event dubbed the Jumpman Invitational and set up — at least in 2022 — as a pre-Christmas showcase for some of the nation’s top athletic programs.
All four programs have seen their men’s basketball teams make at least one Final Four since 2014, with North Carolina leading the pack with two appearances and the 2017 national championship. North Carolina and Florida have a combined five national titles since 2005, including four in five years from 2005 to 2009, and all four schools have made multiple Final Fours since 2002. Additionally, Florida and North Carolina met in the 2000 Final Four.
But of the four schools, Florida is furthest removed from its last Final Four venture (in 2014) — and yet it should also have the most-tenured coach come 2022, with Mike White likely to be in his eighth season with the Gators that fall. North Carolina (Hubert Davis) and Oklahoma (Porter Moser) will be led by new head coaches this fall after the retirements of legendary stewards Roy Williams and Lon Kruger, while Michigan is liable to be in its fourth season under Juwan Howard, should he continue to resist overtures from the NBA.
A similar dynamic could play out for the women’s programs. Florida has struggled to emerge from a rebuild as an SEC contender under Cam Newbauer, yet he’s still likely to be in his sixth season with the Gators and the the second-most-tenured coach in Charlotte, trailing Michigan’s Kim Barnes Arico — who appears to have the Wolverines poised to make a leap toward the nation’s elite after building a team that gave Baylor a scare in the Sweet Sixteen this March.
But North Carolina’s Courtney Banghart will be in just her fourth season of a rebuild in Chapel Hill after coming to Tobacco Road off a successful stint at Princeton, and Oklahoma’s Jennie Baranczyk will be in her second season in Norman, following in the footsteps of longtime coach Sherri Coale.
North Carolina is the most prestigious of the four programs, having won the NCAA Tournament in 1994 and sandwiched two Elite Eights around two Final Fours from 2005 to 2008. All that success came under Sylvia Hatchell, Banghart’s predecessor.
Oklahoma played for the national title under Coale in 2002 and made consecutive Final Fours in 2009 and 2010, but has not advanced past the Sweet Sixteen since.
Still, that’s better than Florida and Michigan, which have just three Sweet Sixteen appearances between them. Florida made an Elite Eight and a Sweet Sixteen in consecutive years under Carol Ross in 1995 and 1996, but has not been back since, while Michigan’s Sweet Sixteen trip this spring was its deepest-ever NCAA Tournament run.
Disappointingly, it sounds as if the format of the Invitational will feature just four games each year — two each on consecutive nights, aired on the ESPN family of networks — rather than a pair of four-game tournaments, with each program meeting each other program once over the three-year span. Still, pitting these four programs against each other in front of what should be a hoops-savvy — and Carolina blue-clad — crowd in Charlotte should make for a fun holiday event.
And while a Jumpman Invitational “title” will obviously be a huge boost for whichever programs win it, even a winless visit should do minimal damage to a team’s profile, given the stature of the programs involved.
The 2022 Jumpman Invitational will take place on Tuesday, December 20 and Wednesday, December 21, 2022.