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Hoops coaches would support local tournament

Hofstra's #3 Steve Mejia shoots for two points

Hofstra's #3 Steve Mejia shoots for two points as he is gaurded by LIU's Jason Brickman (left) and Arnold Mayorga during the first half. (Nov. 11, 2011) (Credit: Bob Mitchell)

The New York City Metro-area is stacked with NCAA Division I basketball programs, with nine programs combined in New York City and Long Island alone.

Depending on what radius is set, there are at least 20 Division I programs within reasonable driving distance of the New York City.

Several coaches and media members have asked the question: Why not a tournament involving the area teams?

Between Madison Square Garden, the Barclays Center, the Prudential Center, the Izod Center and yes, even Nassau Coliseum, there are more than enough venues in the area to host an eight-team tournament. The idea has been kicked around on more than one occasion but has never come to fruition.

And it is certainly a viable idea, especially since most of the area teams play each other.

Manhattan coach Steve Masiello, whose squad played several area teams during the non-conference portion of their schedule, including Stony Brook, Fordham, LIU and Columbia, stressed the importance of building local rivalries.

“Obviously, anytime you play a New York City team you have a chance to get bragging rights in your backyard, which is something you want,” said Masiello. “It is important to us and our opponents.”

There are certainly a number of obstacles, including making sure the eight teams are not conference mates (unless something can be worked out with the conference leadership). There is also the task of convincing a major venue that there is something in it for them.

Hosting a championship game in an arena that’s barely half filled wouldn’t look good for the bottom line. If the right mix of teams are assembled and the games are played on convenient dates and times, it could work. A tournament of that nature played in a big venue could also garner network (ESPN, SNY, MSG, etc…) participation.

There are other coaches who agree a tournament involving area teams would work. It would strengthen rivalries as well as enhance exposure.

"We enjoy playing other local schools around the New York City area each year,” said Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell. “A college basketball tournament involving all the area teams sounds like a great way to engage basketball fans of each school under one roof."

With ESPN ending the BracketBusters after this season, finding another avenue for exposure is important for local teams.

“Local rivalries are a very important part of our scheduling philosophy,” Hostra coach Mo Cassara said. “We would welcome any dialogue that involves the continuation of those rivalries or an increase in attention regarding them.”

As for an eight-team tournament, Cassara would welcome a chance to get the Pride involved. Said Cassara: “I think it would be a fabulous idea for us, the City of New York and college basketball.”

He’s not alone.

“I think it would be a great idea to get those teams together and play a local tournament,” said LIU coach Jack Perri. “Most of us try and play each other anyway and to do so on a neutral court would be something that I think most of us would feel good about."

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