– Derek Allen, Attorney –
It’s the end of February, which by my calculations means its almost the beginning of March, which means OH YES FINALLY MARCH MADNESS ASDFNLEKLDFNDF!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Apologies, I just get a little excited thinking about it.) This is without a doubt my favorite sporting event of the year. Once you include the conference tournaments where each of the winners get a bid to the Big Dance, starting next week every team in college basketball has the opportunity to win the national title if they can string together enough wins. Time to get hot Grambling State!
Excitement is building here in the Twin Cities as the Gophers knocked off #1 Indiana last night, all but assuring its spot in the tournament. Excitement is building here in my office as the Wisconsin Badgers moved to within a game of first place in the Big Ten with a team that looks a lot like the Winthrop & Weinstine rec league team.
While the tournament itself is widely regarding as the most exciting in American sports (I’ll hedge so I don’t offend the rest of the world and the World Cup, although I prefer the Euros myself), anyone who has attended the first weekend’s games knows the atmosphere in the arenas is often lacking. A combination of teams travelling hundreds and thousands of miles from campus for opening round games, the small fan base of many lower seeded teams, and the cavernous arenas that play host to many of the games all combine for lackluster crowds. The notable exceptions are, of course, North Carolina and Duke who somehow always get their opening round games scheduled about 10 minutes from campus. The lack of atmosphere at non-Tobacco Road games is especially unfortunate when regular season college basketball games probably feature the most boisterous crowds in American sports (again, hedging for those abroad because I’ve never been hit with a bag of urine at a college basketball game and bonfires in the crowd are usually absent).
My partial solution is to stop scheduling these games at large, NBA (and in some cases, NFL) stadiums. For example, when the tournament is here in Minneapolis, the opening round games have been held in the Metrodome. The stadium gets filled to 20% of capacity and the atmosphere is terrible. Meanwhile, the Barn is perhaps my favorite arena in the Big Ten and sits idle about two miles away. NCAA, schedule the games at the Barn! Not to leave my home state out, opening round games should be played at the Kohl Center (or better yet, the Field House), not the Bradley Center where they usually occur.
For those interested (I’m looking at you NCAA!), my 16 suggestions, which would host the opening games ever year, are below the jump:
The Barn – Minnesota
Allen Fieldhouse – Kansas
The Pit – New Mexico
Pauley Pavilion – UCLA
Cameron Indoor – Duke
The Dean Dome – North Carolina
Assembly Hall – Indiana
Hinkle Fieldhouse – Butler
Madison Square Garden – My alma mater, Beloit College
The Palestra – Penn
Peterson Events Center – Pitt
Memorial Gymnasium – Vanderbilt
Bud Walton Arena – Arkansas
Gallagher-Iba Arena – Oklahoma State
Shirk Center – Illinois Wesleyan (my favorite gym I played in during college)
The Old High School Gym, not that monstrosity all-purpose piece of garbage my high school built in 2002 – Evansville, WI (I might be biased on this one)