While we finally made it through election season, I ask you to consider allowing me to make one more pitch to you before 2016 runs out.
I, Glenn Clark, ask you to embrace local college basketball this winter. I'm not trying to shame those of you who haven't embraced Coppin State, Loyola, Morgan State, Towson or UMBC in the past. I'm just asking you to consider at least attending some games and supporting local athletes.
If we were on Twitter, you might call this a #PleaseLikeMySport plea. I'm an admitted supporter and fan of local college basketball. I've attended games at every gym in town (as well as now-defunct buildings like the Towson Center and the Coppin Center). Some of my favorite experiences attending or covering sporting events have included local games, such as an incredible Friday night, nationally televised tilt between Loyola and Iona in 2012 when former coach Jimmy Patsos had the Greyhounds competing atop the MAAC; guard Reggie Holmes' Senior Night at Hill Field House in 2010 when Morgan State faced Coppin State; and Towson's upset win against Temple in one of the first games at SECU Arena in 2013.
Head coach Mark Turgeon's Maryland team will get the bulk of the attention from area college basketball fans. I know that because I'm chief among them. I'm not asking you to abandon the Terps (or to stop paying attention to whichever NHL or NBA teams you may support). I'll be glued to the Terps regularly throughout the season. But there are a lot of nights when Maryland isn't playing. Take an interest in other Maryland schools as well, even if you didn't attend any of them. The product is good. The atmosphere is fun. More than anything else, the prices are ... cheap.
Allow me to make some suggestions.
Coppin plays a slim, nonconference home schedule because it uses road games to make budget in the early season. The Eagles do have a Tuesday afternoon game against Louisiana-Monroe (2 p.m., Dec. 20) at the Coppin State Physical Education Complex that could help keep your kids entertained during winter break. Also, their home rivalry game against Morgan State is on a Saturday afternoon this year (4 p.m., Jan. 28).
Loyola is led by two talented scorers (Andre Walker and John Carroll's Jarred Jones) and should be competitive in the wide open Patriot League. The Greyhounds' schedule includes some holiday week, afternoon games at Reitz Arena (1 p.m. against Fairfield on Thanksgiving Eve as well as 1 p.m. against UMass-Lowell Friday, Dec. 23). Those could both prove to be great escapes when family comes to town and you realize you just need to get out of the house already. The Hounds also host local rival Mount St. Mary's on a Saturday afternoon (4 p.m., Dec. 3) and have a Saturday afternoon tilt against conference rival Army West Point (2 p.m., Feb. 4).
Preseason All-MEAC selection Phillip Carr and Morgan State play two early-season Saturday afternoon games (1 p.m., Nov. 19 against Campbell and 1 p.m., Dec. 10 against Wagner) at Hill Field House. Those are particularly fun because Morgan State students haven't left for winter break yet and its student support is electric.
Towson is perhaps the most compelling local team, as the Tigers have a legitimate chance to win the CAA. Their home schedule includes an early Friday night tilt against defending America East champs and mid-major darling Stony Brook (5 p.m., Nov. 25) as well as a midweek crosstown rivalry battle with Loyola (7 p.m., Dec. 7). They also host defending CAA champions UNC-Wilmington at noon on New Year's Eve, which gives you plenty of time to get ready for a big night out after a stop at SECU Arena.
Speaking of the Tigers, you can see them face UMBC at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 17 at the RAC Arena in Catonsville, Md. The Retrievers should be exciting in their first year under head coach Ryan Odom, with talented guards Rodney Elliott (John Carroll) and Jairus Lyles expected to stuff the stat sheet. They also have a Martin Luther King Day (Jan. 16) contest against Albany -- one of the top teams in the league a year ago.
Of course, those are far from the only games those teams are playing at home. Just some highlights on their respective schedules that I am already scouting out to attend myself. This is a plea, a request for you to “Vote Baltimore College Basketball 2016-17.”
I can say with certainty -- even if they don't win any games -- they still won't disappoint you as much as the other folks you voted for this year.
Issue 227: November 2016