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The Trentonian's Full-Court Press blog is back and improved. We'll keep you updated on everything you need to know about Rider and Princeton hoops as well as the college basketball landscape.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

MAAC Madness at Mohegan Sun

It's 4:15 a.m., so I'm taking a quick break from football and desk work to post a MAAC Madness entry. Today, we'll look at Mohegan Sun, which commissioner Rich Ensor told us last month is one of a few "destination" sites that are in the running to host the MAAC tournament in 2012-14. Basketball-wise, it's kind of a strange setting because the only college or pro team that plays there is the WNBA's Connecticut Sun, meaning most of the use the arena during the traditional basketball season is for concerts and all that other non-hoops stuff. 

Here's the rundown: 
Arena: Mohegan Sun
"Host" school: None
Past attendances: NA
Local newspapers: The Day (34,730 daily, 40,670 Sunday); Norwich Bulletin (21,121, 25,164)
Driving distance from league schools: 
458 miles (seven hours, 22 minutes) from Niagara
439 miles (seven hours, one minute) from Canisius
159 miles (two hours, 43 minutes) from Siena
144 miles (two hours, 43 minutes) from Marist 
76 miles (one hour, 25 minutes) from Fairfield
111 miles (two hours, six minutes) from Iona
121 miles (two hours, 16 minutes) from Manhattan 
144 miles (two hours, 47 minutes) from Saint Peter's 
188 miles (three hours, 39 minutes) from Rider
320 miles (five hours, 45 minutes) from Loyola 
Average distance: 216 miles (three hours, 46 minutes)

The Skinny: Simply put, I think it's a dumb idea. In our Q&A with the commish, he told us the league will look at sites within the league's "geographic footprint." I suppose a loose definition for "geographic footprint" could mean the entire Northeast, but I think that's a stretch. To me, the way to determine the geographic footprint is to draw a line connecting all the schools in the league. 

Anything within those boundaries is your geographic base. That means if anything is north or west of Buffalo, south of Baltimore, or -- here's the kicker, when it comes to Mohegan Sun -- east of Fairfield, it's not in the league's geographic base. Clearly, if a city is outside of those boundaries but relatively close, that'd be OK, too. But Fairfield is the eastern-most school in the league, and the Stags would have to drive an hour and 25 minutes (with normal traffic, according to Google Maps) to get there. To me, that doesn't make sense. 

The major draw is that, being a huge casino complex, Mohegan Sun gives you everything you could want in terms of lodging, restaurants, and stuff to do when you're not watching basketball, which in this case (for adults who so chose)  happens to include gambling. I get that, and I understand all that stuff is important. But here's the way I see it: if you put the tournament there, you're basically telling people to come for the tourist attractions and stay for the basketball. When you're trying to have a successful basketball tournament, your pitch should be "come for the basketball, and have a good time in the area while you're here." 

Atlantic City has a similar concept, and the Atlantic 10, which holds its tournament there every year, seems to think it works. But AC is at least within the general geographic outline of the MAAC (and the A-10), while Mohegan Sun isn't. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hounds in preseason NIT


Loyola will represent the MAAC in the preseason NIT, for which the field was unveiled yesterday. The tournament has a big-time Jesuit flavor, with the Greyhounds opening at BC on Nov. 17, and with their Ignatian cousins from Chicago also in the tournament. 

Seven teams in the 16-team field played in the NCAA tournament last year, headlined by Stephen Curry and Davidson, fresh off their trip to the Elite Eight. And who do the Wildcats play in the first round? James Madison, in the Dukes' first game under new head coach Matt Brady. 

Monday, August 18, 2008

MAAC Madness in Newark


Slowly but surely, our MAAC Madness series moves on today, with a look at the Prudential Center in Newark, affectionately known to New Yorkers and North Jerseyans as "The Rock." Along with Atlantic Yards and, to a lesser extent, the Meadowlands, The Rock is one of a few NYC venues that could host the MAAC tournament in 2012-14. 

Here's the rundown: 
Arena: Prudential Center
Attendance in past tournaments: NA
"Host" school: Saint Peter's
"Host" school's 2007-08 average men's attendance: 1,160 (last in the MAAC) 
Local newspapers: The Star-Ledger (345, 130 daily, 500,382 Sunday), The Record  (163, 329, 195,525)
Driving distance from league schools: 
404 miles (six hours, 37 minutes) from Niagara
384 miles (six hours, 16 minutes) from Canisius 
158 miles (two hours, 42 minutes) from Siena
90 miles (one hour, 49 minutes) from Marist 
68 miles (one hour, 26 minutes) from Fairfield
34 miles (49 minutes) from Iona
24 miles (36 minutes) from Manhattan 
48 miles (one hour, seven minutes) from Rider
181 (three hours, 14 minutes) from Loyola
Average distance: 154 miles (two hours, 35 minutes)

The Skinny: I got a comment on our last post from a reader who was angry about the comments Barry Melrose made about Newark, and about my failure to elaborate more on what he said. For clarification -- and for a look at the reaction to Melrose's comments -- this is what I was referring to. (The cliffnotes version for those uninterested in watching the TV clip: Melrose, ESPN's lead NHL analyst before he took over this spring as head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, said on the air that The Rock is a nice arena but "don't go outside, especially if you have a wallet, because the area is awful.)

Melrose subsequently apologized, and as he eventually said, the area around the arena is really nice, with a few good restaurants and bars. It's also right across the street from Newark Penn Station, making the commute easy on either Amtrak or Jersey Transit. 

If I had a seat at the table, I'd certainly vouch for the quality of the arena and the area of the city it's in. The issue is whether The Rock would be a better location than Atlantic Yards, and I'm not sure it is. The average driving time from league schools is slightly shorter to The Rock, but I've got a feeling that fairly or unfairly, a lot of fans would prefer to go to Brooklyn over Newark, because of the Big City feel that comes from being east of the Hudson and because I bet (though, to be sure, I haven't done any polling) people have a more positive feeling about Brooklyn than they do about Newark. 

And one last issue worth mentioning: I listed Saint Peter's as the "host" school because the Peacocks play right next door in Jersey City and played a home game at The Rock last year against Rider (at which there were very few fans of any kind, but more Rider fans than Saint Pete's fans), but the Peacocks' absolutely abysmal attendance figures effectively make The Rock a neutral site. That doesn't necessarily hurt Newark's chances, but if Saint Pete's had enough of a following to add a few thousand fans per session to the attendance figures, The Rock might be a more attractive site. 

Thursday, August 7, 2008

MAAC Madness in Brooklyn

Our series gets a little more intriguing today, because Brooklyn is the first potential site we'll look at that has never hosted the tournament. Unlike some of the other potential sites, which could have been options but weren't strongly considered, Brooklyn is new to the mix because Atlantic Yards, the future home of the Nets, is still being constructed. Here's the rundown: 

Arena: Atlantic Yards 
Attendance in past tournaments: NA 
Host schools: It's unlikely any school would have much of a home-court advantage because the commute would be easy for fans from a number of schools, but Manhattan, Iona and Saint Peter's would have the shortest commutes. 
Local newspapers: New York Times (1,077,256 daily, 1,476,400 Sunday); New York Daily News (703,137, 704,157); New York Post (702,448, 401,315); Newsday (379,613, 441,728). But an important aside about the media coverage: When the tournament is in Albany, it is THE story in the Albany papers and on TV for the entire weekend. To an extent that's also true in Bridgeport and Buffalo. New York City is BY FAR the biggest media market in the country, and that's one of the reasons NYC sites are being looked at. But keep in mind that the MAAC isn't going to be on the pack pages of the tabloids for every day of the tournament. 
Driving distance from league schools: 
435 miles (seven hours, 16 minutes) from Niagara 
416 miles (six hours, 55 minute) from Canisius 
170 miles (three hours, one minute) from Siena
96 miles (one hour, 59 minutes) from Marist 
57 miles (one hour, 14 minutes) from Fairfield
23 miles (36 minutes) from Iona
23 miles (37 minutes) from Manhattan 
12 miles (38 minutes) from Saint Peter's 
65 miles (one hour, 39 minutes) from Rider
197 miles (three hours, 45 minutes) from Loyola
Average distance: 149 miles (two hours, 46 minutes) 

The Skinny: Were I a member of the league's council of presidents, I'd have Brooklyn atop my list of New York City venues, ahead of the Prudential Center, the Meadowlands, and any other possibilities that might be thrown out there. Why? Well, let's think about it. The Nets are relocating from East Rutherford to Atlantic Yards, and there's a reason for that: The Meadowlands is a perfectly fine venue for football, because when people go to football games, they spend hours prior to the game tailgating in a parking lot, not hanging out in bars, restaurants, shops, or whatever other kind of cool/fun places that are typically found in cities but not in sprawling complexes off the New Jersey Turnpike. But for basketball, people want to a city atmosphere. 

You can make a similar -- though not quite as convincing -- argument against the Prudential Center, which is in a city, but not THE city, and which comes unfairly (the area is nice and contrary to anything Barry Melrose said last year on ESPN, safe) with a negative stigma because of the city its in. But we'll take a closer look at The Rock later in the week. 

Atlantic Yards will be nearly brand new in 2012, will be accessible on the NYC Subway, and is an easy commute on the LIR for MAAC fans on Long Island. So were I at the table when the discussions were going on, it'd be at or near the top of my list of neutral sites. 

. . . 
A quick preseason MAAC note: The conference's media day -- at which the preseason coaches' polls and all-conference teams will be announced -- will take place Oct. 28 at the ESPNZone in Manhattan. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

MAAC Madness in Buffalo

I owe you a MAAC Madness post, which I haven't gotten to in a week because of a little thing called football season. 

Today, we'll look at Buffalo, which last hosted the tournament in 2005 and should be in the mix as a possible host in 2012, 13 or 14. So here's the rundown: 

Arena: HSBC Arena 
Attendance for past tournaments: 38,118 in 1997; 36,097 in 1999; 34,635 in 2001; 29, 543 in 2005
Local newspapers: Buffalo News (178,365 daily, 260,445 Sunday), Niagara Falls Gazette (16,909, 32,315) 
"Host" schools: Niagara, Canisius 
"Host"schools' 2007-08 attendance: 2,381 (Niagara), 1,329 (Canisius)
Driving distance from league schools: 
288 miles (four hours, 37 minutes) from Siena
364 miles (five hours, 53 minutes) from Marist 
429 miles (seven hours, nine minutes) from Fairfield
403 miles (six hours, 38 minutes) from Manhattan
392 miles (six hours, 29 minutes) from Saint Peter's 
398 miles (six hours, 41 minutes) from Rider
366 miles (seven hours, two minutes) from Loyola
League average: 381 miles (six hours, 12 minutes) 

The Skinny: No city other than Albany has hosted the tournament more times or posted better attendance numbers, but with more new arenas being built within a hop, skip and a jump from New York City, making people either fly or embark on a six-hour drive to get there doesn't make too much sense. If the MAAC is going to give the tournament to a city on the edge of the league's geographic outline, an experimental year in Baltimore -- easy to get to on I-95 from virtually everywhere in the league -- might make more sense.