- Pick a Team to Follow - I certainly have no problems with people who love college basketball in general. And of course, I will drop whatever I am doing if there is a good game to watch. But what makes college basketball more fun is if you pick a team/college to root for whether it's live or on TV. Now for those of you living in many NBA cities, you often have a lot of choices (especially for us in New York, more on that in a second), but some NBA cities don't have that many college basketball team alternatives (hello, Orlando!).
- When Picking a Team, May I Suggest a Mid Major Team - Now for many pro basketball fans in big market cities, many Lakers' and Clippers' fans likely will trend to USC or UCLA , while Knicks' fans will likely tend to veer towards St John's and Celtics' fans may go down the road to Chestnut Hill for Boston College. However, Bobcats' fans, you don't have to venture far to support the 49ers of Charlotte or Davidson, or even for those Bobcats' fans on the coast, UNCW over the more traditional staples of UNC and Duke.
But if you are the supporter of a NBA team and have no particular allegiance to any big conference schools, there are plenty of mid major teams in your local area that you can support. Pacers fans have Butler right down the road, or IUPUI, which is not the former mascot of the Expos, but the home of Michael Hadley's Jaguars of the Summit Conference. Sixers' fans have plenty of choices besides Villanova. There is Saint Joseph's, UPenn, Temple and my pick to win the CAA this season, Drexel.
Nets' and Knicks fans have lots of mid major teams to choose from besides the usual duo of St John's and Seton Hall. First, you have potentially the best mid major team in the country in New Rochelle in the Iona Gaels. For those Nets' fans craving Brooklyn basketball, there are the entertaining Blackbirds of LIU- Brooklyn, the defending NEC champions who love to put the ball in the hoop. If you are on Staten Island, the Hurley brothers are quickly turning Wagner into a contender. In the Bronx, there is Fordham and the underrated Rose Hill gym. And out here on Long Island, you have two choices; Hofstra and Stony Brook, two programs definitely on the rise.
And you have lots of other mid majors in NBA cities. Detroit could be the favorite for the Horizon in Pistons' land, but UW Milwaukee might have a say about the Horizon in Bucks' land. Jazz fans may finally have a chance to see the gem of a team Stu Morrill always has at Utah State. Cavaliers' fans probably are glad to see the NBA lockout and now they can enjoy another good Xavier team this season.
- Go to Live College Basketball Games - Yes, watching college basketball on TV is fun. But it seriously pales in comparison to live games. Live games are so much more fun. You get a better appreciation for the skill level of talented college basketball players. You have lively,often creative student sections and animated coaches like Bruiser Flint that will entertain you for two non stop hours. It's also one of the most inexpensive outings you can find, plus some tasty food selections (see further down for Delaware BBQ). Thus I recommend...
- Bring a Friend or Better Yet, Bring Your Children to a Live Game - There is never a better outing to hang out with a good friend or with your children than a college basketball game. For almost ten years now, I have had Hofstra season tickets with my good friends Mal and Tony. It's quality time with two longtime friends. You can catch up on each other's lives, comment on the play of the game and throw in a good natured barbing of quality CAA officiating.
But better yet, if you have a young son into sports, like my older son Matthew, college basketball is a very exciting sport to a child. It also helps if your son's first game of the season with you is the game where Charles Jenkins ends up on SportsCenter....on your birthday no less. There is no better bonding with father and son than a sporting event. And a two hour college basketball game is the perfect sport for young children. Matthew is now hooked on college basketball.
- Take a Road Trip to See a Game - One of my favorite things the past several years is taking a road trip. Whether it was a pre-season tournament in Charleston, South Carolina, or a weekend trip to Atlantic City, then Philly for some good food and a Drexel-Hofstra Basketball game with Bruiser Flint at his foot stomping finest, a jaunt down to Newark for some bball and barbecue, or a long road trip to Dayton for a BracketBuster game and a terrific national museum, college basketball road trips with a good friend in support of your team are memories that you will treasure for years to come. But for the best college basketball road trip...
- Go to a College Basketball Conference Tournament - Sans one year due to my younger son's surgery, I have been going to the CAA Tournament since the 2002-03 season. Especially since 2005-06 when the Colonial became twelve teams, there is nothing better than seeing ten games in three days (alas, I have never been able to stay for the CAA Championship game). I have also been to several Big East Conference Tournament games.
There is nothing like a conference tournament live. The games are incredibly exciting, the atmosphere is often raucous and the level of play is tremendous. I can't even begin to tell you the history I have seen at the Richmond Coliseum and MSG over the years. You can not truly call yourself a college basketball fan if you have not gone to a conference tournament.
And there are so many conference tournaments to choose from if you are a fan. Especially for those in the Northeast/Atlantic in 2012, you have the MAAC Tournament in Springfield, Massachusetts, the CAA in Richmond, the Atlantic 10 in Atlantic City and yes of course, the Big East Tournament at the Garden. You can't go wrong by attending any of those tournaments.
- Go to a Mid Major Conference Tournament Championship Game - Now what I mean by this is that several mid major conferences have their tournament championship game at the highest remaining seed's home court. The America East, the Patriot League, the NEC and the Horizon are several conferences that have this in effect.
I have been fortunate to see two of these games. In 2001, I saw Hofstra defeat Delaware in the Mack Center in Hempstead for the America East Championship (in what would also be the swan song for both teams in the America East). And this year, I was fortunate to see LIU win at home over Robert Morris to win the NEC Championship. Talk about an incredibly amazing atmosphere in front of sold out, mostly partisan crowds. And of course, you have fans storming the court at the end of the game. Now that's fun. But if you really want an event to remember...
- Go to a NCAA Tournament Regional - In 2008, my friends Mal, Tony and I went to Raleigh for the first round regional. It was the experience of a lifetime. This was of course where Stephen Curry became a national star for his performances vs. Gonzaga and Georgetown. You also had North Carolina basically playing home games as well in the same regional. Talk about raucous. When the Wildcats made their historic comeback vs. the Hoyas, the place was rocking. A NCAA Regional is definitely something a fan should see for themselves.
And if you follow my advice and pick a mid major team to follow, you can share your experiences by tweeting them. You would be surprised on how few tweeters there are of mid major teams or of the CAA in general. By tweeting some of the action, you will gain followers, trust me on this.
So NBA fans, do not despair. You can get your fill of hoops by joining us in the world of the College Hardwood. And yes, this time, that was a plug.