At a glance, or even after watching the East Regional for hours, it just does not look like Madison Square Garden. That is both somewhat of a shame, at least for New Yorkers, and the product of a deliberate design. All of the courts in the NCAA Tournament are built to look almost exactly the same.
The one that will be used for the regional final between Florida and South Carolina on Sunday is one of 21 made this year specifically for men’s and women’s tournament games. It is a custom born of an epiphany decades ago by NCAA officials, who realized they were missing out on branding opportunities by allowing home team logos to be seen by millions of viewers during March Madness.
So every year, the association commissions work from Connor Sports Court International of Salt Lake City, Utah. The company, whose website includes a testimonial from Mikhail Prokhorov on the good job it did on the Nets court at Barclays Center, refines Northern hardwood maple at its mill in Amasa, Michigan. Craftspeople design it into courts that are delivered to sub-regional, regional and Final Four sites in four-by-seven foot sections that fit together like a puzzle.
After the tournament, the floors are sold. The Florida Gators, in fact, use the wood on which they won the 2006 national title as their home court.
These days, there are some differences among courts. The one at the Garden has orange paneling on the sideline and displays small logos outside two corners of the Big East and St. John’s, who are handling the logistics for this regional. Mostly the touches that reveal that this really is the Garden are subtle at best, like the fact that South Carolina fans’ chant of “Let’s Go Gamecocks” sounds like “Let’s Go Rangers.”