By Zachary Baru
SPRINGFIELD - For the fifth time in as many years, the Basketball Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase brought college basketball back to the MassMutual Center, as the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team faced Ole Miss Saturday afternoon in Springfield before 3,765 fans.
While the final score was not in UMass' favor, a 74-64 loss, it provided Springfield-area fans a chance to see a game right from downtown, as the Hall of Fame continued a tradition between UMass and the city of Springfield.
This year's Holiday Showcase gave UMass basketball another opportunity of a nationally televised game, this time live on the NBC Sports Network. Not only was Saturday an opportunity for UMass to receive national exposure, but it was the second time in 2015 that an event in the city of Springfield was to be televised nationally. The Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony back in September was Springfield's first nationally televised event of the year, broadcast live on NBA TV.
Saturday's game marked the eighth straight year that UMass men's basketball has made an appearance in Springfield. When the Hall of Fame began the Holiday Showcase in 2011, the pairing of the event and UMass basketball was the perfect combination. It kept college basketball, and more specifically UMass basketball, in the city in what has become a popular annual event.
The Holiday Showcase comes at a busy time for Basketball Hall of Fame events. The Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament was just two weeks ago at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, featuring eight division I teams over two days. ESPN2 was on-site to televise one game on Sunday, with the rest on ESPN 3.
Last week in Miami, the Hall of Fame presented the first-ever Hoophall Miami Invitational at the AmericanAirlines Center, live on ESPN. The doubleheader featured Kentucky-South Florida and Ohio State-Memphis.
The crowd at the MassMutual Center Saturday was decent, with the majority of the sides filled in both the upper and lower levels. The Holiday Showcase also offered basketball fans a chance to see new improvements at the MassMutual Center. Fans enjoyed the massive new center-hung video scoreboard and LED lighting that was installed in the arena this past summer.
Among those in attendance, Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno could be seen rooting on UMass.
Once again the Basketball Hall of Fame has brought a successful event to Springfield, keeping college basketball at the MassMutual Center and continuing the tradition of UMass basketball in the city. It is events like these that help the economic activity in and around downtown, and bring business into the city of Springfield. Hopefully the relatively new tradition of the Holiday Showcase will be here to stay for years to come.
Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also writes for Sports Business Boston.