March Madness

Williams: No NCAA Tournament in Cincy. How about UC, Kentucky, Indiana in hoops showcase?

Williams: No NCAA Tournament in Cincy. How about UC, Kentucky, Indiana in hoops showcase?

Ask columnist Jason Williams anything − sports or non-sports – and he’ll pick some of your questions and respond on Email:

Subject: Kentucky Wildcats, Indiana Hoosiers should play in Cincinnati showcase

Message: Here is a suggestion to add to the list for potential events by the new sports commission. Organize a yearly KY-OH-IN Basketball Showcase with four D-1 teams playing a doubleheader on a Saturday afternoon around the holidays. There would be six teams involved with two teams sitting out each year.

The teams would be Kentucky, Louisville, UC, Xavier, Indiana and Purdue. Other regional teams could be in the mix if needed. To keep the in-season rivalries (UC vs Xavier, Kentucky vs Louisville, Indiana vs Purdue), those rivalry teams would not be scheduled against one another. The games could be played at Heritage Bank Center.

Reply: Bring. It. On.

This is exactly the kind of creative thinking the forthcoming revived sports commission needs to have.

Such an event could help reinvigorate our national brand as a college basketball hotbed. The brand has lost a little luster in recent years, mostly because UC is no longer a perennial NCAA Tournament team. A showcase event would be a celebration of our rich college basketball history.

OK, so the NCAA Tournament ignores us because of outdated Heritage Bank Center. The showcase could still be a way to bring a big-time college basketball event to town.

Getting Kentucky and Indiana to play would be the key to driving attendance. Both schools’ fans travel well. Kentucky has averaged 15,033 fans in 12 regular-season games all-time at Heritage Bank Center. Kentucky hasn’t played in the arena since 2005.

Now for the reality check. It's probably a long shot to pull off an event like this at an aging arena – and could be tough to get even with a new arena. It would take major sponsors and a television network to get behind this. And would there even be room on the schedule? There are already several well-established, neutral-court early season tournaments and showcase events. That’s where the sports commission would come in to see if something like this is possible.

Heritage Bank Center has occasionally hosted four-team, regular-season basketball events. They’ve not typically garnered much fanfare.

In December 2008, Heritage Bank Center hosted the Big East/SEC Invitational doubleheader. UC, then in the Big East, played Mississippi State. No. 9 Louisville, also then in the Big East, faced Ole Miss. The announced crowd for both games: 5,922.

Landing coach Mark Pope, right, and the Kentucky Wildcats would be key for a college basketball showcase event in Cincinnati, Enquirer columnist Jason Williams writes.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: UK Wildcats would be key to major Cincinnati college basketball event


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