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There have been a plethora of historic events that have molded Madison Square Garden into what it is today. “The World’s Most Famous Arena” has seen classic sporting events for over a century. From Ali/Frazier to the heroic Willis Reed, to “Matteau, Matteau, Matteau,” the Garden just keeps piling the memories on. You can Add another possible moment this weekend as the building welcomes home a long-lost friend in the NCAA.
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament returns to Madison Square Garden and New York City for the first time in 53 years. The East Regional Final will be decided Friday and Sunday between UConn, Iowa St, Virginia, and Michigan St.
Oh my, has college hoops changed since the last time New York City laid eyes on it.
In 1961, the last time the NCAA was there, long-time successful color-analyst Billy Packer was a participant as a player. He was a point guard for Wake Forest as they knocked off St. John’s 97-74, as part of a triple-header that day.
"The first thing I remember is the smoke. Thick smoke. Then there were the banks of phones right outside the seats. They were always being used just before the game,” former Princeton player Art Hyland, who also participated that day in 1961, told The Associated Press. Hyland is obviously referring to the fact that no-smoking sections and cell phones were still many years away.
The obvious reason the NCAA’s haven’t been here in so long was because of the NIT (National Invitational Tournament and second-rate event in comparison). With the Garden hosting the NIT every year, it made the reunion virtually impossible due to timing. However in 2008, the NCAA bought the NIT, which has paved the way for these two titans (NCAA and MSG) to join forces again.
They could not have chosen a better time.
Ticket prices are reported to be more expensive than Final-Four tickets. The first night (Friday, Two Games) has an average price of $673.03 and a get-in of $299, according to CBS New York. When compared to the South Regional price at $145.23 per ticket, it’s not even close. It proves the absolute power of New City Hoops as it has become the talk of the town and the hottest ticket in years.
Having local UConn in the mix doesn’t hurt either. The former Big East Basketball Team, who regularly played at the Garden in the Conference Championship, did not have that chance this season. 2014 was the first time that UConn wasn’t a part of the Big East Conference. UConn players, coaches, and alumni all believe this is now a fitting story due to circumstance.
Admittedly an understatement. It will be a fun weekend for hoops at the "Mecca."