Thursday, March 26, 2009

MAAC Has Strong History of Hosting

Let's give some well-deserved credit where credit is due.

The MAAC is hosting the next two rounds of the women's NCAA Tournament ... the "Sweet 16" round and, then, the event's next round which will determine one of the four Final Four teams ... at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, N.J. this Sunday and Tuesday.

There should be some terrific action with No. 1 seed UConn meeting California and the bracket's No. 2 seed Texas A&M taking on Arizona State this Sunday with the winners advancing to Tuesday's regional-round championship game and the right to advance to the Final Four.

But, what goes on off the court, if history is any indication, will be first-rate, too.

This blogger's history with MAAC-operated events goes back to the 1989-90 season when the conference's first tournament was played in Albany, N.Y., at the downtown facility then known as the Knickerbocker Arena.

Construction of the facility was barely finished in time for the event. The paint was barely dry for a late January grand opening for a Frank Sinatra concert in 1990 and, then, more finishing touches were added prior to the MAAC tournament, which was the first sporting event played there.

In fact, the bid to host the tournament was given long before the arena's construction was complete, a first for that.

It meant that the MAAC didn't have the traditional blocks of time inside the building to aid its preparatory work involving overall logistics. But, if memory serves, the MAAC's first-ever post-season tournament in Albany went as smooth as every other one since. And, as a reporter back then with the type of access that allows one to see all the warts ... well, there weren't any.

Subsequently, the MAAC has earned a well-deserved reputation as being able to host big-time events. And, that was once again seen in Albany when the NCAA committee's faith in the MAAC and the staff at the Albany arena resulted in the facility hosting the 2003 Sweet 16 round and subsequent quarterfinal-round game for the men's tournament.

And, the MAAC-Albany combination hadn't even applied for that level of the tournament. Officials still speak about their surprise about applying for the earlier rounds of the tournament and, then, being awarded the more-prestigious next rounds.

Tickets for that event sold out faster than at any other tournament site that year.

Obviously, good work like that begets more tournament appearances not only for men's and women's basketball but other events, too.

The primary beneficiaries are sports fans proximitous to the facilities that host those events. One doesn't have to go too far back in the memory bank to recall when there wasn't a big-time arena in Albany, or in Buffalo, or in Bridgeport, Conn., or in Trenton, N.J. ... the primary facilities at the MAAC's disposal for hosting basketball tournaments.

Before those places existed, those areas were virtual wastelands for big-time college basketball events.

Now? In Albany, we've had the excitement of post-season basketball ranging from the MAAC's own post-season event to being able to watch, in 2003, eventual national champion Syracuse get through games in the NCAA' tournament's round of 16 and round of 8 to get to that season's Final Four and beyond.

And, now, Trenton, N.J., has that same opportunity on the women's side. You can be sure exciting basketball will be played ... and, you might even see the eventual national champion take the next steps toward earning its crown.

And, you can be equally sure that the experience will be a good one not only for the teams involved but for the spectators that come to watch.

To refresh the memory, your blogger requested a list of NCAA Tournament events hosted by the MAAC, and the list is impressive. Here it is:

-- Men's Basketball, 1995, first and second rounds in Albany.
-- Men's Basketball, 2000 first and second rounds in Buffalo.
-- Men's Basketball, 2003, Sweet 16 and round of 8 in Albany.
-- Men's Basketball, 2004, first and second rounds in Buffalo.
-- Men's Basketball, 2007, first and second rounds in Buffalo.
And, the men's basketball event returns to Buffalo for first and second-round games next season.

-- Women's Basketball, 2006 first and second rounds in Buffalo.

-- Ice Hockey, 2003 Frozen Four in Buffalo.

-- Wrestling, 2002 national championship in Albany.

-- Cross Country, Northeast Regional meet in 1998, 2000, '02, '04 and '06 in Van Cortlandt Park in New York City.

MAAC officials indicate that applications for future events of that magnitide have been, or will be made during the NCAA-mandated time frames.

So, expect more of the same to come.

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