Saturday, March 24, 2012

NIT Continues to Give UMass National Exposure

By Zach Baru

UMass may not be in the big dance, but the NIT is treating UMass just fine, as it provides a fourth game televised on an ESPN network Tuesday night.  The NIT semifinal against Stanford will be prime-time on ESPN2, giving UMass another great opportunity to showcase their program to a national audience.

While other teams’ NIT games have been broadcasted only on ESPNU or ESPN3, UMass has been fortunate enough to receive two ESPN telecasts, and two on ESPN2.  This is not only excellent exposure for the program, but it greatly benefits the UMass basketball brand, which has been seeking national attention for quite some time.

The Tuesday night game at Madison Square Garden presents a great stage for UMass to make up for missing out on the NCAA tournament yet again this year, as they have since 1998.  While the NIT does not attract the television ratings of the NCAA, UMass has nothing to be ashamed of.  A Tuesday night game on ESPN2 at 7:00 will bring in halfway decent ratings no matter what the game is, and UMass is very fortunate to get the call.

Win or lose, this season is sure to be looked at as a success on and off the court.  Between their 25 wins, postseason success, and multiple 6,000-plus home attendances, this season has been very kind to the Minutemen.  Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden will likely be full of UMass students and fans making the trip down to New York.  A bus trip has already been organized, and MSG should be more like a home-court to UMass when they play Stanford.

You can wish for an NCAA tournament appearance all you want.  But the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden is fine by me.  The whole country will have a chance to see UMass basketball  try to reach their second NIT championship in four years, providing even more national exposure for our Minutemen.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Friday, March 9, 2012

2,250 Attend MAAC Women's Championship, Men's Draws 1,821

By Zach Baru

The attendance at the 2012 MAAC Basketball Championships in Springfield was not quite what the city had hoped.  The final day drew 2,250 for the women's championship game, and only 1,821 for the men's.  To make this sting for Springfield even more, these two games were televised on national TV, ESPNU and ESPN2 respectively.  

This was not the turnout the MAAC, or Springfield was expecting.  With many schools needing to travel far distances, local support was very much needed to make this tournament a success.  Unfortunately, this was not the story at the MassMutual Center.  

While the hotels and restaurants were packed, full of teams, league and school officials, and families, the arena simply was not.  This tournament proved to be greatly beneficial for the city, but the gate did not help the MAAC.  Here is a list of attendance of the five-day tournament, grouped by session:

Session 1: Thursday, March 1, 2012 - Women's First Round (12:00 PM and 2:00 PM)

 Session 2: Friday, March 2, 2012 - Women's Quarterfinals (9:30 AM, 11:30 AM, 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM)

Session 3: Friday, March 2, 2012 - Men's First Round (7:30 PM and 9:30 PM)

Session 4: Saturday, March 3, 2012 - Women's Semifinals (9:30 AM and11:30 AM)

Session 5: Saturday, March 3, 2012 - Men's Quarterfinals (2:30 PM and 4:30 PM)

Session 6: Saturday, March 3, 2012 - Men's Quarterfinals (7:30 PM and 9:30 PM)

Session 7: Sunday, March 4, 2012 - Men's Semifinals (2:00 PM and 4:30 PM)

Session 8: Monday, March 5, 2012 - Women's Championship (12:00 PM)

Session 9: Monday, March 5, 2012 - Men's Championship (7:00 PM)

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Thursday, March 1, 2012

MAAC Basketball Championships to Impact Springfield Economy

By Zach Baru

The 2012 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Basketball Championships brings a lot more than just five days of basketball to the MassMutual Center, it gives the entire economy of Springfield a much needed economic boost.  Not only will thousands come down to the arena to watch one of the nine different sessions throughout the week, but many will call the city home during the week as hotels and restaurants benefit from tournament.

In the end, the city of Springfield will come out a winner, as five days of Division I college basketball and 20 teams bring money and attention to the city.  ESPN will be here to broadcast 10 games on ESPN3, ESPN's internet and mobile-based network.  They will also broadcast the women's final on ESPNU and the men's final on ESPN2, bringing national attention to Springfield.

At any given moment, tens of millions of viewers are tuned into the networks of ESPN, and Springfield will get another chance of exposure, just as it did when ESPN broadcasted the 2012 Spalding Hoophall Classic at Springfield College's Blake Arena in January.  This time, the spotlight goes downtown to the 7,000-plus seat MassMutual Center.

If the tournament gets 18,000 fans to the arena, it will be looked at as a success.  But this is just the first of a 3-year agreement for the tournament, and it is a great opportunity to get the community and the rest of the region introduced to what hopefully will become a long-term home for the MAAC.  If Western Massachusetts does their part, and semi-local colleges like Fairfield, Siena, and Marist show their support, this tournament has a real chance of being a success at the gate, and for the economy.

Support has been shown from the MAAC, as the conference has been marketing this tournament for months.  Earlier MAAC broadcasts this year on ESPNU and ESPN3 have included promos and even directions to get to Springfield.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to more money being pumped into the city.  This tournament is an excellent opportunity for Springfield to take advantage of economic benefits, and attract attention both at the same time.  You can be sure the hotels and restaurants will do their part to represent Springfield well.  But will it work?  And more importantly, will it stay?  That always seems to be the story here in Springfield.

Zach Baru also blogs for Sports Business Boston.  He can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at