Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler.
Last week ESPN released a “college bucket list”: a compilation of must-see stops in the world of college athletics. Naturally, the bulk of the list consisted of requisite college football and basketball experiences. The hoops portion contains visits to a number of storied hardwoods — Cameron Indoor, Allen Fieldhouse, and Rupp Arena, among others. We certainly can’t find any issue with any of ESPN’s 10 listed selections, but to round out the list, we can think of a few more pilgrimages that college basketball fans simply have to make in their lifetimes. Consider these five the appetizers to go along with the entrees that ESPN already listed.
Spend the First Weekend Of NCAA Tournament At a Vegas Sports Book (Las Vegas, NV) — It’s a marriage made in heaven: the most exciting, frenzied weekend of American sport paired with a manic city loaded with the most prime of sports viewing stations – a Las Vegas sports book. It may sound strange, but gambling is entirely optional for this Vegas trip. No place better captures the emotional pendulum of the NCAA Tournament’s first weekend than a packed sports book, and every college hoops fan – even those not inclined to wagering money on the games – should take in March’s first dose of Madness from Sin City at least once.
Attend a Game at the Kennel (Spokane, WA) – The Cinderella phenomenon has long been a crucial piece of college basketball lore, and no program is more synonymous with the role than the Gonzaga Bulldogs. As “mid-major” schools like Butler, Creighton, and VCU continue to cultivate programs that look built to last, it’s important to remember that it was the Zags who first drafted the blueprint. They are “America’s Team” to some but Spokane’s team to all, and the rabid support of their school and city has quickly made the Kennel one of the most feared home courts in all the land. Don’t be fooled — if you make the trip out to Eastern Washington you will not find the tradition of a Kentucky or a Kansas waiting there for you. But what you will find is a city, a program, and a team that, in the most populist of senses, embodies what college basketball is all about.