By Zachary Baru
Sometimes you just have to appreciate what you have, and Springfield sports fans should not feel any different when it comes to the Basketball Hall of Fame and the events they present right here in Western Massachusetts. The Tip-Off Classic has now become the Tip-Off Tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena, leaving Springfield's marquee basketball game absent from the city, yet the Hall of Fame has done an excellent job ensuring that great basketball events still call Springfield home.
The Basketball Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase never officially replaced the Tip-Off Classic in Springfield, but the inaugural event in 2011 continued to bring the UMass Minutemen to the MassMutual Center, a so-called second home for the team. The event continued this past Saturday for its third consecutive year showcasing UMass, as the Minutemen faced Brigham Young before a sold out crowd of 7,331. Although this was not a match-up of Top 10 teams, it was a chance for Springfield fans to watch their local team at the MassMutual Center. Kudos to the Hall of Fame for making sure Springfield's game is not forgotten, and for scheduling a contest with meaning to the local fan base.
The Hall of Fame also brought the top ranked women's team in the nation - the UConn Huskies - to the MassMutual Center in December, as part of the inaugural Basketball Hall of Fame Women's Challenge. It featured seven other teams in a one-day event. It was the first time UConn visited the MassMutual Center, and helped satisfy the large following of UConn fans in the Pioneer Valley.
It is hard to pass up an opportunity to mention the Springfield Spirit, as this game brought back memories of the former team that played in Springfield from 2002 through 2004 with some of the most famous alumni from UConn - not to mention one season splitting home games between the Springfield Civic Center and Mohegan Sun Arena. And while we're at it, the game may have resurrected memories of the UConn Women's All-Star Classic at the Civic Center, which brought some of the best alumni from UConn together for an exhibition game in 2003.
Finally, how can we forget the upcoming Spalding Hoophall Classic, which has become a well-known high school tournament on a national level. The tournament has brought some of the best teams in the country to Springfield College's Blake Arena each year, receiving national television coverage by the ESPN family of networks. Try finding a seat in the venue for one of the marquee games, and you will understand why the Hoophall Classic has become a staple for many basketball fans in Springfield.
While it is easy to take for granted the events the Hall of Fame has brought us, Springfield should not forget the effort the Hall of Fame displays attempting to keep great basketball in Western Mass. This is far from an attempt to encourage people to visit the museum, but rather a reminder of how this small market is fortunate to be treated to special basketball events year-round in the birthplace of the game.
Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.