Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bob Dunning: It’s March, so let the madness begin


From page A2 | March 05, 2014 |

ALL ABOUT HOOPS … more than a few folks have expressed frustration at the fact that a better-than-average UC Davis women’s basketball team continues to play before sparse crowds in the cavernous Pavilion they call home while the Aggie men’s team draws much larger crowds as it struggles to escape the Big West basement … put simply, basketball fans don’t have to be fair when it comes to how they choose to spend their time and their money …

In my long-ago days as a sportswriter covering basketball games in the highly competitive Far Western Conference, the men and women at nearly all FWC schools played doubleheaders on the same night … generally, the women’s game started at 6 p.m., with the men’s game starting half an hour after the conclusion of the women’s game … early-arriving fans got two games for the price of one …

This led to some valid grumbling that the women’s game was being treated as some sort of “junior varsity” event, but in truth, a great number of fans were exposed to the women’s game who otherwise wouldn’t have been had they been scheduled on separate nights … plus, an easy remedy would have been to flip-flop the start times from week to week, an experiment I don’t believe was ever tried …

At the Division I level, where both the Aggie men and women currently reside, I don’t know of a single program that plays men’s and women’s doubleheaders on a regular basis anymore … it might be a good idea to bring the concept back every now and then to see if it would work …

EVEN MORE CROWD WOES … another reason for the drop in attendance for women’s basketball is a dramatic change in scheduling … the average basketball fan cares more about heated rivalries than the fact you’re now competing at the Division I level … for years, the Aggie women — and men — had long-standing spirited conference rivalries with the likes of Sac State, Chico State, San Francisco State, Humboldt State, Nevada and several others … most rivals were relatively close by and had significant fan bases of their own, though none as strong as UC Davis’ … rivalries pack gyms …

In the Big West, which admittedly is a significantly “higher” level of basketball than the old Far Western Conference, there are no natural rivals for the Aggies … it’s basically a Southern California conference with a lone northern outpost in Davis, plus Hawaii … we’ve swapped all our wonderful history and annual battles with Sac State, Chico State, Humboldt State and the like for such no-names as Long Beach State, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, Fullerton State, Northridge State and the like … they may be better teams than UCD used to face, but none of those names get Aggie blood boiling …

Despite the fact the Big West is a competitive league with a decent level of basketball — and just about the only league available to UCD at this point — I’d rather watch one of those old nail-biters with Chico State than a Big West game against Fullerton State … proof in point, the all-time Aggie home attendance record occurred during UCD’s Division II days when 7,926 fans packed what was then known as Rec Hall for a Break the Record Night game against — you guessed it — Chico State …

SPEAKING OF AGGIE BASKETBALL … although the Aggies haven’t played basketball in historic Hickey Gym for more than 35 years now, wouldn’t it be great to take one of those sparsely attended Christmas break games against the Little Sisters of the Poor and play it in Hickey Gym for old time’s sake … back in the mid to late ’60s, when Joe Carlson and later Bob Hamilton were regularly guiding the Aggies to the highest level of the Far Western Conference, it was the toughest ticket in town … students would line up in the cold on a Wednesday morning to get a ticket for Friday night’s game … and when the “All-Male Cal Aggie Marching Band” (don’t blame me for their name) began to harass the opposition, everyone in the place knew exactly what the term “home-court advantage” meant … is once a year too much to ask? …

AND FINALLY … I think the Big West is making a silly mistake by taking only eight of its nine teams to its season-ending and NCAA-qualifying tournament … it’s incredibly easy to include all nine teams in the tournament by having a play-in game between No. 9 and No. 8, with the other seven conference schools seeded into the second round … being the only team not to make the tournament is humiliating, bad for recruiting and completely unnecessary … it seems as if the Big West is saying to No. 9 that you’re so bad, we don’t want you to even show your face at our showcase event …

This year it’s UC Davis and Riverside in the Battle for the Bottom … if you want to make it interesting down the stretch, put in a rule that No. 8 gets to host No. 9 in the play-in game before the regular tournament starts … if No. 8 doesn’t want to play on its home court, let them pick a neutral site … I can see it now: UC Davis vs. UC Riverside at Bakersfield High School, with a trip over the Grapevine in the offing …

— Reach Bob Dunning at bdunning@davisenterprise.net





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