Written by Justin Prince.
NCAA March Madness is in full swing as conference tournaments gear up across the country. As young kids, almost every basketball player dreams of playing in the big game atmosphere of a conference tournament for their favorite college team with a berth at the big dance on the line.
The leadership of Conference USA is making sure that dream can become a reality for kids across the country by hosting its tournament in a venue that Biddy-Buddy League basketball players are already familiar with. – the local YMCA in Frisco, Texas.
Okay, so the tournament is actually being held in the state of the art training facility of the Dallas Cowboys. But the set up is about the same as countless youth All-Star and AAU tournaments held around the country with the tournament’s court A and B configuration and simultaneous games.
My first look inside the Ford Center at The Star. Left of “the curtain,” then right. pic.twitter.com/7R6NFornSp
— Steve Cotton (@HerdCotton) March 6, 2018
Just check out the above pictures from the voice of the Thundering Herd, Steve Cotton. Yes, that is a curtain separating the two courts and yes, the actual stands are about a football field away from the action so the erector set bleachers are necessary so that it will look like there is a crowd on television.
Oh wait, the games won’t be on television, at least not until the championship round as the first three rounds of the tournament will be available only through Facebook and Twitter and that’s only if there aren’t any issues with the broadcasting.
But, it’s not just that this set up appears second rate, it’s that it actually could lead to some issues with the play on the court. With two games going on simultaneously players will have to be extra aware of their surroundings, game situations, and time on the clock as to not be confused by whistles and buzzers happening on the other court just a few feet away.
Also, since the arena isn’t designed for basketball sight lines for fans not seated directly courtside are going to be terrible, but worst of all for the players is the effect it will have on depth perception. With so much open space behind the baskets expect outside shooting to come at a premium as players struggle to find the range in their unique surroundings. This doesn’t particularly bode well for teams like Marshall and UTSA that like to take a lot of outside shots and whose success is often predicated on being able to make a good percentage of them.
On top of all of that it’s just not a good location. Not that Frisco is a bad town; in fact, I hear it’s the opposite. Frisco is a bustling new city on the rise in Texas teeming with excitement and activities. But it’s just not a good location for this tournament and fans of the teams in it.
It’s true that the league’s central office is in Texas and that four of the teams in the league reside in the Lone Star state, although Rice didn’t qualify for post-season play. However, the league’s top four teams, Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky, Old Dominion, and Marshall all are situated east of the Mississippi. These teams also have some of the largest basketball fan bases in Conference USA. The Blue Raiders led the league this year with an average attendance of 6,909 while the Monarchs were right behind that number with a draw of 6,346 per game (Marshall came in fifth averaging 5,928 per game). Yet travel for fans from any of the top four schools in the tournament is nearly impossible due to the sheer cost of a trip so far across the country.
The league really needs to explore having the tournament in a more central location where travel will be easier on fans from all of the league’s teams and in an venue designed specifically for basketball. If that’s too difficult to find, then a rotation of on-campus sites may have to be agreed upon. But any other setup would be vastly superior to the current iteration of the CUSA tournament in Frisco, Texas.