#rushthetrip Day One: The Pit Delivers

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 6th, 2014

RTC columnist Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is looking for the spirit of college basketball as he works his way on a two-week tour of various venues around the West. For more about his trip, including his itinerary and previous stops on his journey, check out the complete series here.

New Mexico’s famed stomping grounds “The Pit” marked the first stop on my #rushthetrip. Considering I tacked on some 600 miles to the journey with this eastern loop into New Mexico, getting to Albuquerque was quite clearly a priority. And why wouldn’t it be? The Pit has long been one of college basketball’s most-prized stages, and Sports Illustrated even ranked the Lobos’ home floor as the 13th greatest venue of the 20th century – not just in college basketball, mind you, but in all of sports. I think the relatively obscure location also offers an element of intrigue – The Pit possesses that hidden gem feel to it, what with Albuquerque’s relatively isolated post on New Mexico’s high desert and the wide open spaces all around. End summary: this was a place I had to find a way to get to.

Even A Little Snow Couldn't Keep Things Quiet Inside The Pit

Even A Little Snow Couldn’t Keep Things Quiet Inside The Pit

Oh but the weather gods didn’t make it easy. A rare New Mexican snowstorm (or so I heard) turned a seven-and-a-half hour drive into something closer to 10, but I arrived at the arena with a few minutes to spare. Emphasis on few. Honestly, though, the later arrival time probably worked out for the best, as walking down the ramp to the floor into an already-buzzing Pit offered a truly imposing first impression. When Deshawn Delaney led the home team down onto the floor (an odd leader, I agree), I couldn’t help but harken back to a John Feinstein observation after he visited there, when he likened the combatants to Roman gladiators, “emerging into a wall of sound.” The snow may have been falling outside and the opponent was a less-than-intimidating Wyoming team, but the combination of arena noise and the emerging-out-of-nowhere, sharply descending gateway to the floor, created an entrance fit for Spartacus.

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Introducing #rushthetrip, a College Basketball Journey

Posted 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.

First Stop On The College Basketball Road Trip: New Mexico's Famed Home Floor, The Pit.

First Stop On The College Basketball Road Trip: New Mexico’s Famed Home Floor, The Pit.

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)

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