By Zachary Baru
UNCASVILLE - For a typical early-season college basketball tournament, any noon start on a Saturday might be a challenging time to get people in the gate, but at the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament, the party was just beginning.
As the University of Massachusetts faced Notre Dame to begin the weekend-long tournament, the Mohegan Sun arena was filled with alumni and fans for both teams, making for a great atmosphere in the 9,323-seat arena. Although not sold out, much of the lower level was full for the late arriving Saturday afternoon crowd. The balcony remained about half-full, creating an energetic crowd without the typical student sections seen on campus sites.
With the strong following of UMass fans in the region, and the abundance of Notre Dame fans across the nation, the tournament started off on the right foot. UMass has played games in prior seasons at the Mohegan Sun Arena, and this game with its difficult starting time proved that UMass fans can and will make the trip to support their team.
Hopefully tomorrow's game with Florida State will attract a similar crowd, possibly giving reason for UMass to be included in this growing national tournament in future seasons. Although this tournament is held at the Mohegan Sun Arena, having a Western Massachusetts presence in the Hall of Fame's tournament is important, especially with the drawing power UMass can bring.
Although division I scheduling is no easy feat, and must be done long in advance, hopefully both UMass and the Hall of Fame can make an appearance happen again in the near future. As both the Hall of Fame and UMass represent Western Mass., both would benefit from keeping UMass involved in a tournament that has such a rich tradition in the region.
Zach Baru can be followed @zbaru and reached at email@example.com. He also blogs for Sports Business Boston.