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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Column: Let’s move

Thursday night at the Pavilion the atmosphere was electric.

UC Davis women’s basketball was going down the stretch in a close game against rival Cal Poly, and the Aggie Pack was willing them to win.

The arena was loud when the Aggies were on defense, the referees knew the fans’ displeasure with contentious calls and the stands erupted into a chorus of cheers with each Aggie basket.

It was a perfect home-court advantage — the kind that UC Davis men’s and women’s basketball have come to expect when they take to Hamilton Court — and it’s part of the reason that women’s basketball is 9-3 at home this season compared to 7-7 on the road.

But following women’s basketball’s final home game Tuesday, that home-court feeling will be gone and very few UC Davis students will have the chance to see their basketball teams until November.

The Big West Conference basketball tournament is held at the Honda Center in Anaheim — which sits centrally between Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine and Long Beach State, and within reasonable driving distance for all of the Big West’s Southern California schools, including UC Santa Barbara.

By contrast, the Honda Center is over 350 miles from Stockton (home of Pacific) and more than 400 miles from Davis — meaning that fans of the Big West’s two northernmost teams will have to drive upwards of six hours each way in order to see their team in action.

With the tournament beginning on a Thursday and taking place during a key time in UC Davis’ academic calendar, it is easy to see why the Aggie Pack will no doubt be significantly outnumbered when men’s basketball coach Jim Les and company take the floor in Anaheim. During last season’s Big West Championship run — which granted UC Davis women’s basketball its first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history — only a handful of UC Davis students graced the sidelines.

So I have a proposal that could allow the Northern California schools to have some fans at their tournament games, at least once in awhile: the Big West should play its basketball tournament in Northern California at least once every four years.

This proposal may seem far-fetched — and implementing it would certainly take several years — but it would not be impossible to make this time-split work.

The Big West tournament is no stranger to changes in venue.

This weekend marks just the second time the conference tournament will be held at the Honda Center. Since the tournament’s inception in 1976 it has been played in seven different arenas, including the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, the Lawlor Events Center in Reno as recently as 2000 and even once in Northern California in the tournament’s inaugural season of 1976 when the tournament took place in Stockton.

So if the move is possible, the question becomes: where in Northern California could the tournament be held?

The Honda Center is a first-rate facility, unparalleled by any of Northern California’s arenas, but that fact could change in the near future. Tuesday’s Sacramento City Council vote could allow the Sacramento Kings to construct a brand new facility, which would be state-of-the-art and could eclipse the Honda Center.

The arena (if approved) would be completed in late 2015, just in time for the Big West to begin negotiating on the potential of holding the tournament their for the first time in 2017, when their current deal with the Honda Center runs out.

My proposal for change will probably come to nothing, and the Big West may never seriously consider splitting time between Northern and Southern California, but it could certainly benefit UC Davis if they did.

So for now we should just enjoy what we have: Tuesday’s opening round women’s basketball game against Pacific at the Pavilion.

TREVOR CRAMER would like to congratulate Matt “the man” Yuen on becoming the new Associate Sports Editor. You can reach both Trevor and Matt at sports@theaggie.org.

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