The NCAA yesterday announced that Madison Square Garden will "host the 2014 East Regional" of the D-1 men's basketball tournament, according to Dick Weiss of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. NCAA Tournament games have been played at MSG before, but it "hasn't hosted one since 1961." St. John's Univ. and the Big East will "serve as co-hosts for the event." MSG is "currently undergoing major renovations, which are expected to be complete by the time" of the tournament (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/13). The AP noted MSG "played host to 71 tournament games between 1943 and 1961, fourth on the all-time list." MSG's seven national championship games are "second only to" the 10 held at K.C.'s Municipal Auditorium (AP, 11/12).
BETTING THE HOUSE: In Newark, Brendan Prunty notes there had been "widespread assumption that the Garden would get East Regional hosting duties over the next few years once the renovations were completed." Ever since taking over the "running of the NIT ... the NCAA has been eager to return one of its marquee events to the building." The "final blow" to Newark's bid to host a regional at the Prudential Center "likely came last month, when the NCAA escalated its head-to-head battle with the state of New Jersey over the upcoming plan to legalize sports betting." The NCAA "pulled all of its sports championships scheduled to be held within New Jersey's borders to show the state that it was serious about its fight to prevent the mix of sports betting and collegiate sports" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 11/13). Also in Newark, Steve Politi noted Prudential Center officials "privately fear that the NCAA’s stubbornness may keep" the arena from "ever getting back into the East Regional rotation, even if the state fails in court to overturn the federal ban on sports betting." New Jersey Sen. Ray Lesniak said, "The NCAA is not going to intimidate the state of New Jersey and stop us from reaping the billions of dollars that now go to organized crime, offshore game sites and the state of Nevada" (NJ.com, 11/12).
WEST COAST BIAS: In San Diego, Mark Zeigler notes San Diego State Univ. and Viejas Arena hosted tournament games in '01 and '06 "only for the NCAA to mandate a minimum of 12,000 'sellable' seats for future venues." However, the NCAA last spring "quietly lowered its minimum 'sellable' capacity for the tournament’s opening weekend to 10,000." NCAA officials "then asked to meet" with SDSU AD Jim Sterk. Sterk said, "They told us that they were changing the requirement so we could qualify. They needed more quality West Coast sites, and they encouraged us to bid on it. So it’s not a huge surprise that we got it" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 11/13).
NEW MAN IN TOWN: SI.com's Luke Winn conducted a Q&A with new NCAA VP/Men's Basketball Tournament Dan Gavitt. Gavitt said, "This week will be three months on the job, and it's been very busy. ... It's amazing how much planning goes into this massive event." When asked if he preferred an intimate setting for the Final Four or a larger venue, Gavitt said, "I'm at some level a basketball purist, so I think the game is probably best played in a more intimate arena. But fact of the matter is -- and it's a good challenge for the college basketball community to have -- that the NCAA tournament is now so popular that 80,000 people want to be there, even if the seats are not that great at the top of the building." Gavitt: "[NCAA Exec VP/Championships & Alliances] Mark Lewis, my boss at the NCAA, raised the issue over the summer of whether we should consider taking the Final Four back to a traditional basketball arena. ... I think it's a conversation worth having, in order to protect the game, as the committee is charged with doing." When asked about hosting early round games at campus venues, Gavitt said, "I look at our regional rounds as opportunities where we could grow the tournament and the game as well. There are 13 sites before you get to the Final Four, and they're not all sold out every year. We get great crowds in some places, but not all of them. This year we're going to be in the Staples Center in Los Angeles and in the Verizon Center in Washington D.C., two places we haven't had regionals in either forever or a really long time. And there are other locations that the NCAA tournament hasn't been to in quite some time, or ever, that we need to seriously consider" (SI.com, 11/12).