College Basketball is back, and for me, it finally feels good to go to a school where making the tournament is not just something desired, but almost expected. Over the last 4 years, the Washington Huskies have either won the PAC 10 Tournament or won the conference out right, meaning the Huskies have been dancing 3 of the last 4 years (snubbed in 2012). In 2010, the Huskies even went to the Sweet 16, where they fell to West Virginia.
With their recent history and myself being a huge sports fan, it may come to no surprise that going to a game was on my to-do list. As an added bonus, it was ANOTHER free sporting event due to connections in Seattle. Thanks to Ian’s uncle, who serves on the board of regents here at Washington, we were able to get 2 free tickets to see the Huskies take on the Loyola Great Danes at the Alaskan Airlines Arena on Sunday.
MORE AFTER THE JUMP
The game started at 5 PM, so Ian and I left my place at 4:40 to walk through the mist and dark puddles on the way to the arena. I am still not used to the darkness and rain, but hopefully that changes soon as grey season is just starting in the beautiful PACNW. After a 15-minute walk which left my Washington hoodie a different shade of grey, we made it to the Arena. This was my second time in the building, but my first time seeing the Huskies play. The building is beautiful and modern, with clean walls, easily navigable hallways, and excited fans. The court is bright and a beautiful place to see the game, with giant video boards, flat screens, and stats all around the Arena. The place holds a quaint feeling 10,000 fans. Compared to Rutgers and their stadium, this felt like an NBA game with different events and dancers coming on during the breaks. I’m tempted to send an email to Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti on how to do basketball games right, because Rutgers could really use the boost of fan attendance, but the stadium condition is more from a lack of funding than lack of desire to change.
We walked around the stadium looking for our seats, which we were fairly certain would be awesome considering Ian’s uncles track record (he has previously hooked Ian up with Box seats). Of course, these seats were equally awesome, putting us right on the mid-court line just behind the television broadcast. In fact, just 3 rows in front of us sat an NBA legend, Lenny Wilkens. Wilkens was busy covering the game for the PAC 12 network, but this NBA Hall of Famer has enough accolades to make us consider (though we never actually followed through) going up and saying Hello. Wilkens resume is impressive, including: the 2nd most regular season wins as an NBA coach, 6th overall pick in 1960, 9 time all-star including an all star game MVP, and even an NBA championship in Seattle as a coach in 1979, coaching the Sonics to a 4-1 title. Unfortunately we didn’t say hi, but it was a good experience to be sitting so close to a legend.
The game started slow with some off shooting but quickly picked up. I was particularly impressed with the Dawg Pack, the student section along the opposite sideline behind the benches. The students were packed and rowdy for this early season game against a sub-par opponent, even though Loyola made the tournament last year. For those wondering, the reason I was not in the Dawg Pack was because they are extremely limited season tickets that first go to the students who had them last year. Being a new student, it is nearly impossible to get those tickets, and you are expected to be at every game cheering your ass off. Though I wasn’t in the mix, I was still proud of my fellow students for showing up and cheering the entire game. I can only imagine how rowdy they will be when a ranked team or rival comes into town.
The Huskies started slow but took a small lead into half time over Loyola. Led by their 7-foot Senegalese center Aziz N’Diaye, and NBA prospect C.J Wilcox, the Huskies pulled away in the second half to win 85-63. Wilcox led the team with 22 points, but N’Diaye may have been the most valuable player of the game, finishing with a double double, including 10 points, 3 monstrous blocks, and 16 rebounds. The Huskies looked good in the second half with some lights out shooting and efficiency from the line. Loyola missed 11 of their 24 free throws, which would have made the game much more interesting if they were able to make more baskets from the charity stripe.
This young Husky team enjoyed their second victory of the year, but this is just part of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic which will send the Huskies to Connecticut to take on Seton Hall later in the week. The Huskies are still unproven though, so this tournament will be a good chance for head coach Lorenzo Romar to gauge his team this season before getting into their regular season schedule
As most people are Husky fans in Seattle, I think a basketball game is a great way to be around the college atmosphere, see some great basketball, and cheer on a local team for a fair price. I like how accesible the arena is for students, especially compared to the current situation with football, making students head to Century Link while Husky Stadium is being renovated. Luckily for me, my tickets were free, but the face value was relatively low for an incredible seat. If you want to see the Huskies play before tickets really get expensive, I recommend an early game before conference play starts in January. For those with kids, it seemed like the kids were having more fun than anyone else, dancing to the band and music. The stadium does a great job of putting fans on the gigantic monitor above the court that seems to be the Cowboys Stadium Jumbotron of College basketball, spanning most of the court and seems bigger than most professional arenas.
I walked away from the game feeling happy I went and yearning for another chance to see the Huskies play. Can’t really ask for much more from the Huskies, the arena, the fans, and the game. I give them my highest praise and am excited to see what we can do this year. Go Dawgs!