Just curios that we have not seen any input for people who were at the BingU/ Hartford game about the Events Center. Have not seen it yet, except from online photos. Isbal, any comment from Hartford staff or any BingU fans who attended the game?
I felt badly about not writing anything earlier, but, truth be told, between leaving at 5am on Saturday to make the drive up to Bing, staying out way too late Saturday night and the Super Bowl, I didn't have a chance before the week started, and since then my efforts were frustrated by a busy week at work and Internet connection problems at home, Anyhow, enough excuses. Here goes.
First, on the game itself, I'm sure glad Hartford wasn't playing at full strength, because if they were I suspect I'd be congratulating them on a solid win. Your team seemed very poised, particularly given the hostile atmosphere, and never let Bing pull away. Also, your guards (Stys, in particular) were ridiculously quick. At least twice, Stys made a cut through the paint for a layup before anyone on Bing could even react. Fans all around me kept commenting on their quickness. Also, your shooters were extremely confident, again, Stys, in particular. There were several times when Hartford would bring the ball down, get it to Stys or another shooter and they'd immediately fire a long 2 or a 3 and hit it with authority. It was as if they'd taken (and made) that particular shot a hundred times. Really impressive.
Luckily, Carter for Bing found the same sort of confidence (and success) with his shooting in the second half, but clearly your shooters are something special. Finally, Hartford's passing was, at times, fantastic. While Bing was clearly bigger and stronger than Hartford across the board, Hartford's quick passing, along with the sharp shooting and strong guard play, really kept them to avoid Bing's defensive strengths -- and, as a result, kept them in the game until the very end.
As for Bing, although Billings didn't have the greatest offensive game of the season, he was incredible on the boards and on defense, with 13 rebounds and 10 blocks. It became pretty clear pretty early on that Hartford wasn't going to win the game by going through the middle. Carter, of course, had a great second half, with 24 of his 27 points coming then. That having been said, it never really felt like he was dominating the game. He just quietly made his shots and made plays. He's definitely starting to fill the shoe's left by Anthony Green from last season. Brett Watson also had a nice game, stepping up during the first half after Carter got in foul trouble. Although he didn't score a lot of points, as he did in Bing's last game against Hartford, he took the reigns, led the offense, played great defense and really kept Bing in the game. Finally, Adediran slammed the boards for 8 rebounds and made up for the offense Nick couldn't provide, with 11 points in the game. I really like Adediran, and I hope the team can find a way to give him and Nick minutes. If they're both in the game and hitting the boards well, they should be getting every rebound. (Which makes me wonder what happened in Vermont, but that's another post . . . . ) All in all, it was a great basketball game, and went down to the wire.
Now for the facility . . .
Being proud alums of your respective schools, I'm sure you guys can understand how great it was to go back to the ol' alma mater and see something like this. Obviously, for $33M, you get a pretty amazing facility, and it appears that Bing got everything they ever could've expected to get and more for their money. Once it is finished, and they get the fourth "wall" of seating in place, it will be a truly gorgeous place to watch basketball. I spent a lot of time walking around the place, and, quite honestly, there isn't a bad seat in the place.
Beyond the facility, the athletic department managed the crowd and the game flawlessly. There was ample parking, with plenty of local and campus police on hand to direct traffic. All of the services in the arena were up and running smoothly. They set up a hospitality tent beyond the curtain that separated the b-ball area from the rest of the facility (the floor is the size of a regulation 400m indoor track, and the court only takes up half of that space), where alums, boosters, and invited guests could mingle during halftime and after the game while enjoying free food and a cash bar. They had plenty of administrators and local dignitaries on hand for the pre-game ceremonies, along with a full assortment of student groups -- cheerleaders, a kick line, a dance team, an acapella group. All in all, they managed the game like they'd done it a hundred times before, despite the fact that they'd never run a game in this facility and only hosted crowds half the size of the crowd on hand.
Some random observations:
To start, there were articles in the local paper all week before the game and three or four articles on both the day of the game and the day after, incluing a front page article each day. Now I admit that it was easier for something like this to get good press in a town like Binghamton than it would be in a town like Boston, but the city hasn't always been this supportive of the university or the athletic teams (read: they used to HATE the school). That has obviously changed dramatically, and for the better.
They invited the local state senator (who was instrumental in securing the funding), the SUNY chancellor and -- none other than -- the AE Commish out onto the floor at the beginning of the game. The senator and chancellor then passed the ball to co-captains Watson and Carter, who took the first official "shots" in the new arena. This may be a common thing to do, but I'd never seen it before and thought it made for a nice moment.
The enthusiasm of the students was apparent throughout the afternoon. They set aside 1,200 tickets for students in a dedicated student section in the one section behind Hartford's first half basket, and it was packed and loud. The students stood for most of the game, followed the action on the court, chastised the refs for every questionable call (no surprise at an AE game), and made as much noise as possible for every Hartford foul shot attempt. You could tell they really rattled Hartford at the foul line at the beginning of the game, as Hartford missed four or five free throws early on. They also got individual players, like Stys, after he threw up an airball early. For the rest of the game, whenever he got the ball the students would chant "a-i-i-i-r-ball". (Of course, Stys went on to shoot great after that one miss.) Moving to the bigger facility definitely hasn't diminished Bing's home court advantage, and it's going to continue to be a tough place for teams to play on the road. (Something for Boston to keep in mind, as they visit Bing to end the regular season.)
More impresive than the enthusiasm of the students, though, was the enthusiasm of the community for the facility and the team. I arrived at the EC at about 11:45, and there were already several hundred people waiting in the lobby to get in. By the time they opened the doors at noon, the lobby was packed and there were people standing outside (in the 10 degree weather) waiting to get in. By and large, the crowd was made up of local folks who've begun following the team, not students or others related to the university, and people really seemed moved by, and proud of, the place. One guy commented that the only other place he'd ever seen a scoreboard as nice was at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. Four guys sitting behind me thought the place was so nice that they were "definitely" buying season tickets for next season. A woman a few rows ahead of me commented on how she hoped we'd be able to host the conference tourney, and several other people around her immediately chimed in that they'd "definitely" buy tickets if we did. Best of all, some guy said "With a facility this nice, they'd better make it to the NCAA tournament. Having heard all of this, I have to believe that the community interest isn't just a flash in the pan, and that the community will keep supporting the team this season and in seasons to come.
I met the commissioner. Although I recognized him from the physical descriptions on this board, contrary to what some have posted here, I thought he was a pretty nice guy. He said he was very impressed with the facility and the game, and it seemed to be a genuine sentiment. Of course, I had to put in a personal plug for Bing hosting next year's tourney, but he quickly reminded me that it's the ADs that make the decision, not him. Still, he went on to note that Delaware had done a great job of hosting when it was in the league, so Bing's location shouldn't be viewed as a detriment. At the very least, I have to believe that his seeing how nice the facility is and how well it was run will have to help Bing's chances for hosting next year.
Finally, the department handed out "Go Bearcats" placards to everyone in attendence, and at one point in the game the announcer asked everyone to show their spirit by holding them up -- and then instructed everyone to read the back of them. On the back, was an ad for next weekend's first women's game in the EC against Maine, which they are promoting as "Rock the House" day, in celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day. I thought the concept for the marketing the first women's game and the way they went about promoting it was really classy -- and it appears to have worked, as the women drew a record high, 2700, for their game against Maine yesterday.
Well, that's probably more than enough for one post. Bottom line: great weekend, fantastic facility -- from the little I've seen and heard of the others in the league, it is by far the best in the AE. I sure hope to be posting driving directions and hotel recommendations for Bing this time next year, so many of you can see for yourselves.