Howard Herman: Division I basketball isn't very far away

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PITTSFIELD >> The Christmas song says "It's the most wonderful time of the year."

That is especially true if you are a fan of college basketball.

While Berkshire County may be a little bit off the beaten path — and if you've ever tried to get home via Route 2, you'd notice that — it isn't all that far from big time college hoops both near and far.

If you get in your car and drive about an hour, give or take a few minutes, you can get more than your fill of Division I college basketball.

The University of Massachusetts is at the top of the food chain, because the Atlantic 10 Conference is up there with the Big East as the top non-football conferences in the country.

The first big game for Derek Kellogg's Minutemen at home is a Jan. 9 visit by St. Bonaventure. That game features Cushing Academy graduate Idris Taqque, a former football teammate there of St. Joseph graduate Jon Bianchi.

Then on Jan. 12, George Washington comes a calling. The Colonials are always a tough foe.

To our west, Siena and UAlbany are both plying their trades and performing fairly admirably.

Jimmy Patsos' Saints have a big game on Jan. 30, when former Williams coach Mike Maker brings his Marist Red Foxes to the Times Union Center.

Will Brown and the Great Danes have a big game against America East power Stony Brook on Jan. 22, and five days later will play UMass Lowell, coached by Dalton's Pat Duquette.

All three provide you different fan experiences.

Siena's experience is usually the best because there are usually more people there than in with the other two teams. There were 6,593 fans in the Times Union Center last Tuesday night. That figure was much higher than the 4,000 or so who showed up at the Mullins Center to honor John Calipari when UMass played New Orleans.

The crowd really gets into the game, and I'm not sure if those who sit in the expensive courtside seats or right behind press row consult on insults hurled at officials and opposing players.

The best band belongs to the Minutemen. Their pep band plays more than the usual "pump them up" songs. But I do think that Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" on Dec. 2 was just a bit early.

UAlbany's SEFCU Arena is small, seating around 4,000, and not terribly intimate. But it is easy to get to, comfortable to sit in, and the hoop is good to watch.

If you want to travel a little farther, UConn plays some home games in Hartford and you can always hit Worcester to see Holy Cross or Boston to see Boston College., Harvard, Boston U. or Northeastern.

So if you need a hoops fix, and you got some cash in your stocking, use it on some tickets to see D-I basketball.

You won't be disappointed.

Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.


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