After attending the Yale vs Princeton game on March 2, 2011, I became aware that I had attended a men's college basketball game from start to finish at every Division I basketball school in your state. I am writing this open letter to personally thank you for hosting these events. I am not from New Jersey and have never resided there, nor do I have affiliations with any of the institutions mentioned or their alumni. I attended these games strictly as a neutral party, though out of respect I usually root for the home team on my travels.
The following is a ranked list of my experiences at the eight member schools with one being the best, complete with commentary and my own recollections of the games. In some cases I have attended more than one game at an institution, for simplicity's sake I am only listing my most recent visit.
If Only The Nets Could Draw This Well... 1. Seton Hall vs Georgetown Jan 18, 2011 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ I ranked this game number one for several reasons. It's one of the better places to see a professional sporting event let alone a college one. It is fairly easy to get to, near major highways and public transportation. You will find alot of amenities here that you won't see elsewhere like a porch to smoke hand rolled cigars, top shelf liquor and dozens of food options. The concources are very wide, getting in and out is not hard. Parking is plentiful and not that expensive. On this particular night I recall a lot of Georgetown fans arriving as the crowd seemed split. The only knock on the place is that their security team is notoriously overzealous. You might as well be getting on line for a screening at the airport. Also you will be hounded and possibly removed from the building if you explore any region of the facility not assigned to you by your ticket.
I Just Parked On the Most Important Site In College Athletics 2. Rutgers vs Marquette Jan 5, 2011 at the Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, NJ Most people don't realize that early on in its history Rutgers was considered to be a member of the Ivy League before breaking away. On Nov. 6, 1869, the first intercollegiate football game was played on the site of the athletic center and part of adjoining parking area. If this game had never taken place who knows how college athletics would have evolved. We here at midmajority might not even be here in this capacity. Today all that remains is an oddly configured basketball arena and lots of asphalt. The playing surface is below ground level and you kind of feel on top of the action here. I recall Rutgers trailed the majority of the game but kept it sort of close at times before falling too far back at the end.
A Geodesic Clamshell Beckons 3. Princeton vs Yale Mar 2, 2012 at Carril Court at the Jadwin Gymnasium in Princeton, NJ You don't visit an Ivy League Institution like Princeton and not learn anything. This place oozes history. You can't walk far without seeing a monument, a plaque, or banner to commemorate an athletic achievement. Bill Bradley alone has written a huge chapter in Princeton athletics and that Heisman Trophy in the lobby looks pretty impressive. Being in and around New York City every day I am at the epicenter of the Jeremy Lin explosion. This leads to more interest in Ivy League basketball and ultimately people are asking who is the next Ivy Leaguer to make the jump to the NBA. As far as I am concerned I think the closest player is Greg Mangano of Yale. Keith Wright and Zack Rosen might get a look from scouts as well but I am not sure if anyone will ever duplicate the success Jeremy Lin has had. I've had a chance now to take a live look in at all three candidates. The jump from being a big fish in a little pond to a vast ocean like the NBA is incredibly difficult but not impossble. Godspeed graduating seniors.
Hidden In Plain Sight 4. Monmouth vs Central Connecticut State Jan. 7 2010 at Multipurpose Activity Center in West Long Branch, NJ I was very impressed with just how nice this venue is. It is only a few years old but you hardly hear it mentioned even when the discussion involves other recently renovated or constructed Northeast Conference facilities. Maybe it's the bland name. In any event I highly recommend the place. Every seat is great and the tickets are inexpensive. The night I was there they even sent a player out to sign autographs for free after the game. I'm trying hard not to make any Jersey Shore references but it is in that vicinity.
I Love When the Roof Looks Like This 6. Fairleigh Dickinson vs Stony Brook Dec. 15, 2007 at The Rothman Center in Teaneck, NJ I gave this venue the nod above the others below it because of its roomy high ceiling that's shaped into several wooden points. There is also free parking, always a plus. If you have every traveled anywhere in North Jersey you have encountered lots of highways masquerading as streets with no turns available for miles. Have your directions straight on your way here. You don't want to miss your exit, and bring an EZ Pass too. Commuter schools like this are the backbone of the Northeast.
A Stone's Throw From Manhattan 7. St. Peter's vs Canisius Jan 3, 2011 at The Yanitelli Center in Jersey City, NJ Sometimes schools with limited space in urban areas start doing strange things with their athletic venues. Such is the case with the Yanitelli Center which is part swimming facility, part air supported bubble and part basketball court. It's not exactly clear a basketball game will take place when you enter the facility before finding the correct room down a hallway. Absent are a lot of the amenities that you will find at other midmajor arenas. The light shines dull on this court no matter what time of day. Despite this they have had a history of success here. The smell of chlorinated water can be strong at times which is something I have not encountered elsewhere.
Newark The Beautiful 8. NJIT vs Texas Pan American Jan 12, 2011 at The Fleisher Center in Newark, NJ This game was played in between two major winter storms. The date and time were moved up and the ticket I was given was still misprinted with the original date. Despite all that a surprising number of people showed up. I understand the struggles of moving up to Division I, as the school I attended a decade ago was going through the same thing. Stay the course and good things are soon to happen. This facility is pretty much a standard gymnasium with nothing standing out in my mind of note. It is not unlike many smaller college and high school arenas. If you happen to be a midmajor recapper on your first trip to Newark, I wouldn't advise you walk around any place you don't have to at night once you leave the campus.
I would like to thank you again, New Jersey, for the countless hours of enjoyment you have given me and others. Any criticism above should be taken as a playful jab from a native New Yorker. Your state is very unique in that it has so much variety in a small area and that to me is fascinating. I'll be back for sure, since there are four Division II schools to explore and 15 Division III schools. Maybe one day I'll find out what a Scarlet Raptor is or a Jersey City Gothic Knight.
Sincerely, Edward Pelle
at PRINCETON 64, YALE 57 03/02/2012
YALE 19-8 (9-4) -- A. Morgan 4-11 2-3 13; R. Willhite 5-11 0-0 10; G. Mangano 6-19 6-8 20; J. Pritchard 0-1 0-0 0; J. Kreisberg 4-7 2-2 10; B. Sherrod 1-3 0-2 2; M. Grace 0-1 2-2 2; G. Kelley 0-0 0-0 0; S. Martin 0-0 0-0 0; M. Townsend 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-53 12-17 57. PRINCETON 17-11 (8-4) -- T. Bray 3-6 3-4 10; I. Hummer 7-11 3-4 18; D. Davis 3-9 2-2 9; D. Koon 1-4 0-0 2; B. Connolly 2-4 2-2 6; P. Saunders 2-4 0-0 5; M. Darrow 2-6 3-4 8; J. Sherburne 3-5 0-1 6. Totals 23-49 13-17 64.
Three-point goals: YALE 5-11 (G. Mangano 2-6; A. Morgan 3-5), PRIN 5-12 (P. Saunders 1-1; D. Davis 1-3; I. Hummer 1-1; M. Darrow 1-3; T. Bray 1-3; D. Koon 0-1); Rebounds: YALE 35 (G. Mangano 14), PRIN 26 (I. Hummer 5); Assists: YALE 9 (R. Willhite 5), PRIN 9 (I. Hummer 2); Total Fouls -- YALE 13, PRIN 14; Fouled Out: YALE-None; PRIN-None.