After a 53 year hiatus, the NCAA tournament has finally returned to Madison Square Garden and it did so with a flair that only the bright lights of New York could provide.
College hoops fans in the Big Apple were treated to two great sweet sixteen match-ups between UCONN and Iowa State and Michigan State and UVA. The Garden and its raucous fans set the perfect scene for two competitive games.
For former Big East heavyweight UCONN playing in the Garden was all too familiar territory.
It’s definitely a comfortable thing for us, Shabazz Napier said. We played here a bunch of time and we kind of got a feel for the court. But that’s no big advantage. I think the biggest advantage is our fans. And with it being not too far away, we have the support to come down and cheer us on and a lot of teams don’t have that.
Huskie fans clearly out-numbered those in attendance for Iowa State, but that didn’t stop the Cyclone faithful from making their presence known and the loss didn’t temper the feelings players felt when playing in a building with such historical significance.
It was definitely a beautiful experience for me. I’ve come a long way in my basketball career to have this opportunity, explains Iowa State’s Dustin Hodge. And it’s still special to me, even though it didn’t end the way I wanted it to, I’m just happy to have the opportunity to play here.
The last time a NCAA tournament game was played in the Big Apple most of the parents of the guys playing tonight weren’t even born, but the significance of this building transcends generations and can be summed up perfectly with the words of a Frank Sinatra song the UVA band played right before the game started.
These little town blues, are melting away,
I’ll make a brand new start of it In old New York.
If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York..New York New York!!!
Final Sweet 16 Scores in Madison Square:
UCONN: 81 Iowa State: 76
Michigan State: 61 Virginia: 59