Sad but true, college's best basketball games are played off campus

The tropics, troops in Germany — even retired aircraft carriers — host some of the better matchups of the young season. Then again, college basketball does play second fiddle to football.
by Berry Tramel Published: November 15, 2012
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photo - NC State’s C.J. Leslie, center, goes up for a shot against Penn State’s Jermaine Marshall, left, and Brandon Taylor during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)
NC State’s C.J. Leslie, center, goes up for a shot against Penn State’s Jermaine Marshall, left, and Brandon Taylor during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)

College basketball season opened last week. Perhaps you heard. Probably you didn't.

OSU opened last Friday against Cal-Davis. OU opened Sunday against Louisiana-Monroe. Combined record last season for the Davises and the Monroes: 8-52.

With more gems to follow. OU has home games against Northwestern Louisiana, Stephen F. Austin, Ohio and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. OSU will host Portland State, Central Arkansas, Texas-Arlington and Tennessee Tech.

The Cowboys, at least, also are bringing in some decent names. Gonzaga, South Florida and Missouri State.

But the sad truth about non-conference college basketball is this: the best games are played off campus.

College hoops' early season is conducted under dark of night. It's a shrouded sport. Opens in November, going against the monster of American tackle football, and when the gridiron takes a small break, most students are gone for Christmas break and basketball goes on semi-hiatus, too.

College hoops go out like a lion but come in like a lamb. There's no campus buzz. Nothing to juice a fan base that needs prodding.

On all but a few campuses, basketball is a November/December afterthought. Something to do if nothing else is going on.

Yet this sport takes its best non-conference games off campus. Takes it to big cities and tropical locales.

Duke-Kentucky and Michigan State-Kansas were played this week in Atlanta. But at least those four bluebloods will go home to packed houses, even if the opponent is Elon or Eastern Michigan.

Not so for most every other team in America.

Syracuse and San Diego State played on the U.S.S. Midway, an aircraft carrier. Pacific winds made it hard to shoot. UConn and Michigan State played at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.

Chalk those games up to military appreciation.

But why such goodwill for Puerto Rico, where this week OSU is playing in a tournament that includes the likes of Tennessee, North Carolina State, Providence and UMass? Why not have the Cowboys go to Tennessee and host N.C. State in Stillwater?

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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