A couple of months ago, I tweeted an idea which is far from an original one, yet in regards to college basketball in this particular area, one that needed to be looked into once again:
Then the great New York Post sports columnist Lenn Robbins in his most recent column last week threw out a similar idea:
If the Philadelphia Big 5 — LaSalle, Penn, St. Joseph’s, Temple and Villanova — can put aside any animosities and petty jealousies and play great games against each other every season, why can’t that happen in the Big Apple?
It’s time for Columbia, Fordham, LIU Brooklyn, Manhattan, St. Francis and St. John’s to step up. Call it the Big Apple Pick Six. It can be played in the Garden or Barclays Center in alternating years.
Obviously, Robbins’ suggestion got more of a buzz in the twitter world:
I think the time has come where something like this finally needs to happen. What time in recently years has been better than now to go have an event such as this one in New York City? I can’t think of one.
Frankly, for a long time, there wasn’t much appeal of having one. There was once upon a time where St. John’s ruled the city in college basketball. Growing up in Brooklyn when I was a kid and when I would watch college basketball on TV in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I didn’t even know there was any other college basketball teams other than St. John’s that played within the boundaries of New York City. The Johnnies ruled the roost. Even though, they’re still and probably always will be the big boys in town, their hold over NYC college basketball, even though some may disagree is not as strong as it once was. Even the conference they play in, although it still has the same name we are all accustomed to, it just isn’t the same league that was once considered the best league in college basketball.
No slight against St. John’s but times have changed. Since 2000, St. John’s has been in the NCAA Tournament just three times (’00, ’02, ’11). If you include Iona, the seven “other” NYC teams have a combined 11 NCAA Tournament appearances in the same time period with two of the schools equalling or surpassing St. John’s total. (Iona: 5 (’00, ’01, ’06, ’12, ’13), LIU Brooklyn: 3 (’11, ’12, ’13), Manhattan: 2 (’03, ’04), Wagner: 1 (’03)). These schools have a thing in common, they are all from traditional one-bid leagues which St. John’s obviously knows nothing about coming from the Big East.
With this I say, the time is now to start something similar to what the Philly Big 5 have been doing for decades or what the smaller Connecticut schools do annually with their Connecticut 6 Classic. It’s time to get St. John’s (Big East), Fordham (Atlantic 10), Manhattan and Iona (MAAC), Wagner, LIU Brooklyn, St. Francis Brooklyn (NEC) and Columbia (Ivy) and get an event like this going. You have two major arenas (MSG and Barclays) to choose from to hold this type of event. Pick one (or better yet alternate between the two) and let’s do it!
Of course, with anything there is debate. Robbins suggested a six-team event with just true NYC teams which would leave out one school plus Iona. Although I understand why Robbins suggested a six-team event, it only leads to heavy debate over inclusion. Who is worthy of being invited and who isn’t? Let’s eliminate that option.
I think an eight-team event makes more sense. You want to see ALL the NYC teams. Iona is in New Rochelle which is close enough so I’m putting them in.
Now, should it be a long one-day quadruple-header going pretty much going from noon to night? Or a one-day double-session doubleheader like you would see at a site during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament? Or simply just conduct a 2-day doubleheader in which two games are played one night and the other two games are played the next.
Next thing is, who plays who? One thing we can assume, conference foes won’t play one another so obviously you won’t see Manhattan play Iona or LIU play either SFC or Wagner and vice versa. Also, you don’t want to take away regular non-conference rivalries such as Manhattan and Fordham who play in their annual Battle of the Bronx game at their alternating gyms. That still leaves a handful of teams for each of these teams in these scenarios to chose from.
Next thing to consider is: Who gets the game against St. John’s? (Assuming they want in of course.) Face it, they are still the only power conference team in the bunch and getting them on your team’s schedule is what you want to see as a fan because it means a better strength of schedule and a better RPI for your school’s team. Fordham has the conference appeal playing in the A-10 but when their best RPI since joining the A-10 is 112 which was all the way back in the 2006-07 season, it is a bit tough to get terribly excited drawing them. Still Fordham does help in the RPI and the overall strength of schedule departments.
One thing I would suggest, I wouldn’t let St. John’s and Fordham play each other in this type of setting. These two teams can play each other anytime they want, whether it is at Rose Hill or Carnesecca Arena or MSG. That is fine but an event like this should give the little guy a rotating opportunity to play one of the two bigger NYC programs in a major arena. A STJ-Fordham game can be held separate from an event such as this.
I know I am very much looking forward to the day, hopefully sooner than later, on a November or December day (or two) that we as college basketball fans can head over to the Garden and watch a day and/or night of hoops involving Columbia vs. Manhattan, Iona vs. SFC, LIU vs. St. John’s and Fordham vs. Wagner one year. Then the next year head over to the Barclays Center and watch Wagner vs. Iona, LIU vs. Fordham, SFC vs. Columbia, and Manhattan vs. St. John’s.
Also, you would think coaches would an event like this because if anything, it at least guarantees them a game at a major arena against a local opponent. That would be one less game to schedule for the good mid-major teams like Iona, LIU and Wagner who may have trouble scheduling non-conference games due to their recent successes.
I believe the dawn of a NYC-centered type of an event is on the horizon. Whether it is in a year or two or a decade from now, the time is right for it to happen.