Once again, Louisiana college hoops is abuzz
March Madness began in full force earlier Thursday, with the marathon of 32 first-round games over the next two days. Sadly, no Louisiana school is part of that madness.
But what we saw Wednesday night at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center probably qualifies as “madness” in its own right.
The final boxscore will show that LSU defeated UL Lafayette in the first round of the NIT. But the intensity before, during and after the game made it look like much more than two teams facing off outside of college hoops’ main stage for the next three weeks.
The two head coaches, Will Wade of the Tigers and Bob Marlin of the Ragin’ Cajuns, helped ignite the fire about this one. The quality of play lived up to the intensity.
This morning, people are still talking, good and bad, about what we saw last night. And when almost to a school, basketball has slipped behind baseball on the college sports priority list among Louisiana fans, any publicity is good publicity.
So now LSU moves on to the second round. For a little over an hour after Wade’s gone-viral postgame press conference, it appeared that the Tigers had a chance to play at home again, with UC Davis taking care of Utah for three quarters, but the Utes rallied in the final 10 minutes for the victory, earning the right to host the second-round game as the higher seed.
But back to the Tigers and Cajuns. After what we saw Wednesday night, wouldn’t we all like to see that game played every year?
After last night, however, the chances of the Cajuns heading back to Baton Rouge anytime soon aren’t great, and the chances of the Tigers heading to Lafayette to face – as their fans referred to the opponent, “little brother” – might be less than zero, especially since they haven’t played there since World War II.
So here’s a thought: How about a neutral-site game in New Orleans during the pre-conference schedule? Play it at either Lakefront Arena or the Smoothie King Center.
It’s not unprecedented. The two schools play a neutral-site baseball game in the New Orleans area each year in the Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic at the Shrine on Airline.
There have been neutral site basketball events in New Orleans before, as recently as last December when the CBS Sports Classic – matching North Carolina against Ohio State and Kentucky against UCLA – was played downtown.
If you played a doubleheader, there are a couple of ways to go about it – bring in a second SEC school and try to create some regional appeal, or go ultra-local and put Tulane and the University of New Orleans (who, by the way, didn’t play last season) in the other game.
What say you, basketball fans? Would you buy tickets to a doubleheader in New Orleans that included a rematch of last night’s NIT first-round game?
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Lenny has been involved in college athletics since the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…