Last night, our epic Tour Of NYC Hoops commenced with a trip to Brooklyn Heights to watch our St. Francis (NY) Terriers take on the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils. Everyone was very nice.
Central Connecticut State — which has a name so unwieldy it's impossible to shorten in casual conversation — ended up winning 63–50 in both team's Northeast Conference opener, but the final score is always irrelevant in games like this. Unless you happen to be playing in them, or related to someone playing in them, which we'd say made up about 35 percent of the crowd around Peter Aquilone Court. What matters is the fan experience. This is Division I-A college basketball, after all.
So, we'll be ranking each of the venues we visit this year in five categories, and we'll declare a winner of the First Annual Best College Hoops Venue in NYC at the end of the season. (The winning school will receive a printed-out version of the blog post, and two sticks of butter.) Let's get this started.
Venue: Peter Aquilone Court, Brooklyn Heights
Team: St. Francis (NY) Terriers
Ticket Price: $7
Facilities: Rare is the college-basketball venue that, if you really wanted, allows you to take one step forward and be on the court during play, but Peter Aquilone Court affords you this potentially litigious opportunity. (The Terriers are on MSG this Saturday at noon against Bryant, so if you want to be a YouTube sensation as the idiot who tackles the ref, this is the place.) This is to say: It is very small, and small time, here. We'd estimate the crowd at about 150, all sitting on bleachers right next to the court, with disinterested St. Francis students milling about. It's your high-school court: The players might also have college formals here. It's tucked inside the college building itself, and you can actually get lost trying to find it. At halftime, we stepped out for a cigarette, and when we came back in, we took a wrong turn and ended up in the library. It was only a little quieter there. It's difficult to beat that price, though, and impossible to beat that location. Score: 5/10.
Quality of Play. It is safe to say that CCSU and St. Francis aren't likely to be favorites in the Northeast Conference this season. Neither team is half-bad defensively, but offensively this was like watching drugged kittens paw at drenched, dead yarn. There was a twelve-minute stretch in the first half in which the Terriers did not score a field goal, and we lost count of the number of missed layups at around nine. Junior guard Ricky Cadell has some nice three-point range and a fun, cocky swagger to his game ... but that is it. The St. Francis at Syracuse game on December 13 is going to be ugly. Score: 3/10.
School Spirit: The Terriers have a small dance team, but no cheerleaders and no band. Not that there was much to cheer about last night (see "missed layups," above). Except for a row of superfans sitting courtside, the tiny Central Connecticut cheering section behind the bench was louder than the home fans. Also, Dan Shanoff might have seen a Terriers mascot, but we sure didn't. Score: 3/10.
Coziness: We mean it: Everyone was really nice. (The people who let us in the building were the friendliest lobby security we've encountered in New York City.) It's a great spot for hard-core hoops junkies, too: Some guy sitting next to us was poring through his copy of The College Basketball Blue Ribbon Handbook, giddy to watch Division I-A basketball from three feet away. And the dance troop not only posed for a picture with us, but, after it was taken, insisted that we take individual portraits of each of them. They liked our camera. Oh, and there's never a line for the bathroom, not even at halftime. Score: 8/10.
Miscellaneous: St. Francis has one retired jersey hanging in the gym: The number 22 of Dennis McDermott, who scored 1,578 career points (second in school history) between 1971 and 1974. Though the honor is weakened just a bit by the fact that there's a player on this year's team wearing number 22: Junior Akeem Bennett. Score: 3/10.
FINAL SCORE: 22. Maybe we just caught them on a bad night.
Next up: January 17, Robert Morris at Long Island. See you there.