As we know, the New England Patriots are one game away from playing in the Super Bowl at the Meadowlands next month. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have sucked most of the oxygen out of the sports world, and many of us have been too busy to pay attention to other sports.
Win or lose, it’s time to turn our attention to the Division I basketball teams in our region.
And we are very lucky here in the Berkshires to have so many college basketball teams playing within an easy drive. I know from my house, there are a number of Division I teams within a two-hour drive. They’re all fairly easy commutes and to watch college basketball, it’s certainly worth it.
For the second consecutive season, Derek Kellogg’s UMass Minutemen are the region’s No. 1 team. Frankly, I think UMass is the best team in New England and would beat UConn.
Too bad that those teams don’t play each other regularly. It would be worth any price of admission to see Chaz Williams and UConn’s Shabazz Napier going up against each other. They are the two best players in our region.
The nationally-ranked Minutemen (16th in the latest AP poll) are an NCAA Tournament team right now. Some bracketologists have placed them as high as No. 4 in a region. As long as UMass doesn’t lose a bunch of games it should have won, there will be an NCAA viewing party in Amherst.
Amherst isn’t the only place where UMass people are smiling. Pat Duquette’s UMass Lowell River Hawks beat powerful UAlbany in overtime last week and improved to 3-1 in the America East Conference.
The River Hawks dropped their first 11 Division I games before rattling off wins against Maryland-Baltimore County, Binghamton and Albany.
I have seen the Great Danes in action, and they’re a big, strong and tough team. To upset them was quite the feather in the cap.
Duquette and the River Hawks will be in the neighborhood a couple of times in the next month. Monday afternoon, UMass Lowell will play a league game at the University of Hartford. Tip is 1 p.m. Then on Feb. 5, Duquette’s team will be in Albany to play the Great Danes.
There’s still six weeks of Division I college basketball left, and lots of places to go.
It’s a little too far for a day trip, but College GameDay on ESPN was broadcast live from the Palestra in Philadelphia, a basketball gym that many call the Fenway Park of college hoops.
The Palestra, built in 1927, is on the University of Pennsylvania campus and is the home gym of the Penn Quakers. But for decades, it was the only building in America that could claim to be the home court for five, count ‘em, five college basketball teams.
The Big 5 in Philadelphia consists of Penn, Villanova, Temple, Saint Joseph’s and LaSalle, and all five used to play all of their home games at the Palestra.
There were multiple doubleheaders during the week, and nothing was as exciting as a Big 5 game between two of the Philly schools.
When I was a student at Temple, most of the teams were made up of Philadelphia or South Jersey-area players. The players were high school teammates or rivals and played together in the summer. That’s what made this Big 5 battle of brothers so special.
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