It was fun attending Day 1 of the Horizon League Tournament at Joe Louis Arena yesterday. Here are some thoughts about the games and tourney in general:
4 Double-Digit Wins: The only game that really was close was the first game, in which Green Bay outlasted Cleveland State 65-53. But the game was either teams to win down the stretch as the Phoenix were up just 3 with 3 minutes left. Milwaukee was too much for Northern Kentucky to handle, as the Panthers were more physical than the Norse and controlled the tempo and play in the key en route to a 17 point victory. They also shared the ball extremely well. Any thoughts of #10 seed UIC pulling an upset over #3 Wright State were quelled quickly as the Raiders sweltering defense held the Flames to a sad 22.6 field goal percentage. This game was essentially over at halftime. Wright State even kept sensational Freshman Dikembe Dixson in check, forcing him to a frustrating game in which he had 8 turnovers. Detroit Mercy star player Paris Bass sitting out the first 26 minutes of the game against Youngstown State did not stop the Titans from cruising 92-79. The Penguins kept within striking distance in the second half, but they could not get the margin closer than six points.
Can I Get A Program Please?: A program, or at the very least a roster sheet, is as basic at sporting events as selling hot dogs and popcorn. So I was stunned to see that there were absolutely no programs or roster sheets that were sold or given away to fans. Some people at this tournament really dropped the ball on this not-so-minor detail. It just makes no sense. Why on earth wouldn’t they be selling a program with some info on all 10 teams for $5. Not only is it a nice souvenir, but it helps the fans to know who the players are on the court. From the league’s perspective, it is a nice source of revenue. I guess that colorful smaller programs like that would cost no more than 50 cents each to produce, so they can make a nice little profit as they would easily sell at least a couple thousand copies over the course of the tournament. Simply unbelievable!
The Event: About two-thirds of the upper-level seats were curtained off at the Joe, leaving the rest of those seats for general admission. It was nice that the ushers allowed some of the people sitting up there to fill in some of the lower level seats that were not sold, especially behind both baskets. There really seemed to be a good amount of people from each school who traveled to Detroit for the tournament, so they were successful in making this a nice destination event. Not only did this include some family, friends, and school administrators, but also each school’s pep band and cheerleaders. This is a nice and memorable experience for student-athletes and these other students. Only a fraction of the concession stands were open, which made sense as that was enough for the amount of fans there. There could have been a few more ushers around, but the ones there were friendly and helpful. I found it interesting that the Japanese company Hitachi was a major sponsor of the event, with them specifically marketing their engineering jobs in relation to their automotive part of the company. The organizers have done a good job with the tournament, but there are still some kinks to be worked out. They also did a good job of keeping fans engaged during timeouts and halftime with fans participating in silly games and dance teams performing. By the time Detroit Mercy played in the final game of the day, the sidelines of the lower level were pretty densely filled, with the sides behind each basket more sparsely filled. I estimated about 6,000 7,000 were in the stands for that game. JLA is a good venue for this. But I cannot wait until it moves to the brand new Red Wings arena in two years!