Introducing #rushthetrip, a College Basketball JourneyPosted by Bennet Hayes on February 5th, 2014
Last Saturday, more than 35,000 fans watched a college basketball game in upstate New York. Just a couple hours later, fewer than 1,000 people squeezed into a glorified high school gymnasium in Sacramento — also there to watch a college basketball game. The first game had been hyped for months, maybe even years; build-up for the second included little more than the unfolding of the courtside bleachers. But somehow, by the end of another wild Saturday of college basketball, fans across the country were talking about both the Carrier Dome Classic and the Sacramento State Miracle.
And herein lies the beauty of college basketball. Each season, you can count on the storied programs – the Dukes, Kentuckys and Kansases of the sport — to deliver a number of games, performances, and moments worth remembering. Helping the cause for recollection are the stages that house them — college basketball would not be college basketball without its home courts. The iconic venues only magnify the power and emotion of the moments: places like Cameron Indoor Stadium, Allen Fieldhouse, and the Carrier Dome are worthy porters for many of the sport’s most cherished memories.
But college basketball extends well beyond the blue-bloods and bucket list buildings. We saw it on Sunday morning, when we woke to find the 292nd best team in Division-I, owners of the 348th largest gymnasium in the country, sharing headlines with the soon-to-be-#1 in the land — a team which the night before had exceeded its capacity in the largest home arena in college basketball. On any given night, during any given season, a college basketball story can arrive from literally anywhere. It can come from any one of 49 different states (sorry Alaska). It can come from Wichita, Kansas, just as easily as it can from New York, New York; Sarasota, Florida, as often as from Los Angeles, California. The game is ubiquitous. College basketball’s footprints do not discriminate.
- Wednesday February 5: Wyoming at New Mexico (Albuquerque, NM)
- Thursday February 6: Oregon at Arizona (Tucson, AZ)
- Saturday February 8: Saint Mary’s at Pepperdine (Malibu, CA)
- Saturday February 8: UCLA at USC (Los Angeles, CA)
- Monday February 10: Southern Utah at Sacramento State (Sacramento, CA)
- Wednesday February 12: New Mexico at Boise State (Boise, ID)
- Thursday February 13: Pepperdine at Gonzaga (Spokane, WA)
- Saturday February 15: UNLV at Utah State (2PM) (Logan, UT)
- Saturday February 15: Idaho at Utah Valley (7 PM) (Orem, UT)
- Tuesday February 18: Boise State at Colorado State (Fort Collins, CO)
- Wednesday February 19: Arizona at Utah (Salt Lake City, UT)
- Thursday February 20: Gonzaga at BYU (Provo, UT)
With much of this in mind, I am setting out on a college basketball road trip today. My 12-game, 16-day itinerary is above. I’ll be writing about my experiences as I go, and naturally, basketball is at the core of the journey. But while hoops is the common denominator, the goal is to explore and enjoy the towns, arenas, and people that make each destination unique. Due to impending old age, I don’t have the juice to replicate the longer trips of past years (26 games in 31 days in 2012 nearly killed me), but the more than 5,000 miles on the road should still be plenty. Advice on anything – where to eat, drink, watch a game, play pickup ball, ANYTHING else – is beyond welcome, so please pass along any must-do’s you notice on the schedule.
Inevitably, college basketball will mean something different in every town I visit. But it will definitely mean something in all of them. What that looks like — how the spirit of college hoops manifests itself in each of these places – is what I hope to describe.