If Sacramento State Hoops Loses The Biggest Game In Program History – It’ll Likely Save The School From Embarrassment
In a game that SB Nation’s Mid Major Madness is calling the biggest in both programs’ history, the Sacramento State Men’s Basketball team travels to Cheney, Washington to play Eastern Washington on Thursday night, with the winner gaining the inside track for the regular season Big Sky Conference title. The Sacramento State Hornets have been playing division 1 college basketball since 1991 and they’ve never won more games in a single season then they have this year (there’s still 7 regular season games remaining). They currently are riding a 7 game winning streak and have won 11 of their last 12 to get to 16-6 overall (9-1 in conference play). The Eastern Washington Eagles are also on a hot streak, having won 10 out of their last 11 games, with the sole loss coming at Sacramento State (90-77) last month. The Eagles are currently 18-5 on the season (10-1 in conference play). A win for the Hornets this week would effectively give them a 2 game lead at the top of the Big Sky standings as they’d own the tie breaker over Eastern Washington. On the other hand, if the Eagles win on Thursday, they would hold a 1 game lead on the Hornets with 6 regular season games remaining. Sacramento State has never won a division 1 conference title and has never been to the NCAA Tournament, while Eastern Washington’s only appearance at the big dance in March came in 2004. The stakes are high this week in Washington, but for Sacramento State a loss might actually save the school from a huge embarrassment.
Busch League Sports own, FOX, a Sacramento State graduate, wrote a piece on the disaster that is the Hornets’ home basketball gym last month. “The Hornets Nest at Colberg Court” is probably the worst NCAA division 1 basketball gym in the country. Most universities have nicer facilities for intramural games. “The Nest” doesn’t even compare to most high school gyms in the Sacramento area. A proposal for a $219-per-semester fee to fund a new $125 million arena on campus was voted down late last year by a non-forward thinking student body. School spirit at Sac State also ranks near the bottom of all the division 1 programs in the country, but we understand that people don’t want to shell out more money out of their pockets for something they are not passionate about. It’s time for the people running the show at the University to step up and do what it takes to raise the money for a new facility – something that will surely raise school spirit for decades to come. The fact that the administration and boosters of Sacramento State have not been able to build a respectable, or even half way decent place for their teams that have been in division 1 nearly 25 years to play, is an absolute joke…and it’s about to bite them in the ass.
In the Big Sky Conference, the regular season champion gets the honor of hosting the postseason tournament. This is a huge advantage as the tournament winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, almost certainly the only bid out of the Big Sky from the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. A first ticket to the big dance would do wonders for the Sacramento State basketball program and the athletic program at large, but it looks like the Hornets will have to give up their home court advantage in the Big Sky postseason tournament, even if they win the regular season title.
Obviously “The Nest” is not a suitable venue for a conference tournament, an ESPN crew (that will televise the championship game), or any college team for that matter. The Sacramento Bee reported yesterday that the other venues in Sacramento capable of handling the Big Sky tournament are already booked for the dates the tournament is scheduled. The Sleep Train Arena, Memorial Auditorium, even the UC Davis Pavilion are all not available for the Hornets to use. If the Sacramento State Hornets win the Big Sky Conference regular season title, it looks like they’ll be taking their home court advantage to…RENO! The Reno Events Center is the closest viable place for the Hornets to hold the tournament. Don’t get us wrong, we love a good trip to Reno and the Events Center is within walking distance of all the downtown casinos, but taking the tournament away from Sacramento is a huge loss for the city’s businesses, Hornets’ fans, and most importantly a team seeking its first trip to the NCAA tournament. The Big Sky Conference would be smart to hold the tournament at a neutral site in a destination like Reno every single year (a move that will probably happen soon), but this season the rule is in place and it’s going to be a public relations nightmare and a huge embarrassment for Sacramento State University if its team wins the Big Sky regular season. If the Hornets lose on Thursday they’ll likely save their University some face, but we’re hoping for a win – which just might spur someone with some pull on campus to get off their ass and fix the problem.
From The Sacramento Bee
Unable to find a suitable location in the greater Sacramento area, Big Sky officials are leaning toward hosting the annual postseason championship tournament at the Reno Events Center if California State University, Sacramento, winds up as host team. The center, a block east of the city’s major casino hotels, seats 4,500 for basketball and can be expanded to just more than 5,000, arena officials said. “At this point, unless something comes up between now and then … Reno is the one in play,” Big Sky Senior Associate Deputy Commissioner Ron Loghry said Tuesday.
Moving the tournament to Reno would be a blow to Sacramento officials, depriving the region’s hotels and restaurants of several days worth of tourist visits. It would also create something of a public relations embarrassment for the community and the university. CSUS officials said they’re still trying to find a way to keep the tournament in Sacramento but would plan to go to Reno if that’s the only viable alternative. “It would be unfortunate for everybody involved,” said Mike Sophia, director of the Sacramento Sports Commission. “We’d certainly love to see the teams come to Sacramento and the economic impact that comes with that.”
CSUS would have the right to host the postseason tournament for the first time ever if the Hornets win the regular-season championship. The team is in first place, a half game ahead of Eastern Washington, and has won its last seven games. The problem is that the team’s on-campus arena, the 1,102-seat Hornets Nest, isn’t nearly large enough to host the conference tournament. Other locations in Sacramento are booked for all or part of the March 12-14 tournament weekend, including Sleep Train Arena, Memorial Auditorium and the UC Davis Pavilion.
Sophia said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has gotten involved in the search for an alternative, and university officials said they’re anxious to keep the tournament in the area. “We’re going to try to find a solution that works locally,” said Bill Macriss, interim athletic director at CSUS . “That’s the best option for our student-athletes … and our fans.” The final outcome could depend on the Hornets’ on-court performance; if the Hornets don’t win the regular season title, the tournament automatically goes elsewhere and the issue becomes moot. But even though the team has seven games left, and the regular season doesn’t end until March 7, the clock is winding down quickly on CSUS . Loghry said Big Sky officials need to know within 10 days or so which venue the university has designated for hosting the tournament.
“We’re trying to give them as much leeway as possible,” Loghry said. If the Hornets win the regular season but can’t or won’t host the tournament, the team that finishes second would take over. Macriss said CSUS President Alexander Gonzalez’s plan is to have the university host the tournament, “regardless of where that would be.” Even if the games are played in Reno, being the home team might still give the Hornets a better chance of winning the tournament – and catapulting the Hornets into their first-ever spot in the NCAA basketball tournament. Reno is a two-hour drive, close enough that CSUS fans could attend.
Macriss said a Sacramento-area location obviously would be preferable to taking the games outside the region. “Knowing we still have some time, we haven’t stopped the process,” he added. The Hornets Nest was deemed unsuitable for the conference tournament in 1996 when Sacramento State joined the Big Sky. The university agreed back then that it would find a different tournament site if it won the regular season. Macriss began looking for alternatives to the Nest last summer, when it became clear the team had a chance of winning the regular season. Besides not having enough seats, Big Sky officials said, the Nest doesn’t have adequate facilities for ESPN, which is broadcasting the championship game March 14.
Hosting this year’s tournament could serve as a dry run for Reno. The Big Sky is considering moving the tournament to a neutral site starting in 2016, and the Events Center has put in a bid for the honor.