Crossover Appeal: 2012–2013 College Basketball in New York City
by Jonathan Zeller, 10/09/2012
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The leaves haven't yet fallen from the trees and the Yankees are still playing baseball—but, believe it or not, college basketball is right around the corner.
Madison Square Garden has always been a roundball mecca—and with the opening of Barclays Center in Brooklyn, fans have twice as many marquee NCAA matchups to choose from. Teams passing through the City include defending national champ Kentucky, potential 2013 contender Indiana (featuring "Cousin Cody" Zeller*), perennial powers like Syracuse and UConn (still, for now, in the Big East) and Cinderellas Butler and VCU. All this in addition to the pleasures of regular-season games on the venerable hardwood of the imposing Carnesseca Arena at St. John's and old Rose Hill Gym at Fordham. Yes, it will be a fun season. Read below for highlights, ticket links and, where we see fit, some additional information.
*Not actually my cousin.
Barclays Center Classic
November 9, 5:45pm; Barclays Center
Can something rightfully be called "classic" if it's never before taken place? We won't comment on this matter (especially with roughly a billion other "classic" college hoops events scheduled for this season). In any case, the first college-basketball doubleheader at Barclays is a good one, headlined by Kentucky vs. Maryland and with an undercard of LIU–Brooklyn and Morehead State.
NIT Season Tip-Off
November 21, 7pm; November 23, 2:30pm; Madison Square Garden
For some particularly obsessive fans, Thanksgiving week is not about turkey/Tofurky, stuffing and quality time with family members—it's about getting an early look at some of the nation's top college basketball teams. That's because the Wednesday and Friday bracketing Turkey Day are the dates when the NIT Season Tip-Off decides its champion. This year, such prominent programs as Michigan, Pittsburgh, Kansas State and Virginia hope to reach the semifinals and finals at Madison Square Garden, but must first fend off scrappy underdogs in the earlier rounds.
Maggie Dixon Classic
December 9, 11am; Madison Square Garden
This year, the City's biggest women's basketball showcase pits Rutgers against Louisiana Tech, with St. John's facing Duke in the other contest.
Big East Championship
March 12–16; Madison Square Garden
For now, Syracuse and UConn—who played that epic six-overtime game not long ago—are still in the Big East. They and the rest of the conference's membership never fail to put on a good show in one of college basketball's most storied conference tournaments. Houston, Memphis, Southern Methodist and their ilk may soon make the conference bigger and less Eastern, but 2012 offers one last hurrah for the league as it once was.
More Info: bigeast.org
Atlantic 10 Championship
March 14–17; Barclays Center
The first conference tournament held at Barclays Center ought to be a good one. Recent Final Four squads Butler and VCU and perennial power Temple are among the teams likely to compete in Brooklyn.
National Invitation Tournament
April 2, 7pm; April 4, 9pm; Madison Square Garden
Some naysayers dismiss the nation's second-oldest postseason college basketball tournament—created just a year after the NAIA tournament and a year before the NCAA tournament—but savvy fans know that's a mistake. There are around 350 Division I college basketball teams, and only 100, not even a third of them, compete in either the NCAA tournament (68) or the NIT (32). This means that the NIT field, which generally includes a few regular-season conference champions, is bound to be strong. Plus, well-known MSG heroes (Walt Frazier) and villains (Reggie Miller) actually starred in the NIT long before making their marks on Knicks history.
Columbia: Morningside Heights' Ivy Leaguers have a smart-alecky pep band, and their conference sometimes produces postseason Cinderella stories (notably Cornell in 2010).
Fordham: This Atlantic 10 team draws big crowds at historic Rose Hill Gym, the second-oldest on-campus arena in Division I.
Long Island University (LIU): There was bad news off the court in the off-season, but LIU is coming off of back-to-back Northeast Conference titles.
Manhattan: The Jaspers face MAAC rivals in Riverdale, led by high-scoring senior George Beamon.
New York University: The Division III [Fightin'] Violets' pep band cranks out rock-funk covers.
St. Francis (NY): LIU's NEC rivals play at a welcoming, intimate home where fans can watch the game from just a few feet away.
St. John's: The Red Storm, when they're not at the Garden, play in a sterling on-campus arena. Their roster still includes nycgo.com's official Favorite Name in Sports: God's Gift Achiuwa.
Wagner: Josh Thompson—the guy who dunked over his own mother last season—is back, as is the rest of the core of a team that upset Pitt. This could be a big year.