First things, first. I’m a baseball fan. A BIG baseball fan… yes, in truth, even larger than I am a basketball fan and sports fan, in general. Without further ado, let’s extend congratulations to the Chicago Cubs and their legions of fans! Perhaps more importantly, congratulations to baseball! Wow, that was truly an epic ending to a classic World Series that culminated in dramatic fashion Wednesday night. I was glad to be a fan of the game, hanging on very literally every pitch. It was wonderful.
And so now I use that excitement to segue into my excitement for the start of hoops season! The Pacers 50th season has begun and so, too, has the college hoops campaign. I’m writing today to share some love for the start of another great year of basketball at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
I tweeted this Wednesday morning, before the Cubs ended their curse —
— Kevin Messenger (@kmess65) November 2, 2016
I was writing a news release at the time, announcing that tickets go on sale this Saturday for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament first- and second-round games to be played here at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Yes, on the heels of hosting NCAA Women’s Final Four in 2011 and 2016, for the first time ever, the Fieldhouse will be the site of men’s tournament games next March.
I LOVE THAT! I have been with the Fever now through 14 seasons, but prior to that, I spent about 20 years (yes, I’m that old) covering college hoops teams. Besides “Game 7,” probably the two greatest words in sports are “March Madness.”
Bankers Life Fieldhouse will begin March 2017 with the annual Big Ten women’s hoops tournament, followed two weeks later by the first weekend of NCAA madness – six early round games with top-seeded clubs hoping to dodge upsets on the way to the Sweet Sixteen. Wrapped around that are the IHSAA girls and boys state finals, and seven Pacers games. I love March. I even get to celebrate my birthday in the middle of March Madness each year!
Previewing the month of madness, Bankers Life Fieldhouse hosts a pair of men’s college events in December with five great returning NCAA Tournament teams. Nationally ranked Indiana and Purdue do battle Butler and Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic (Dec. 17), before a new event on the Fieldhouse calendar: a New Year’s Eve afternoon date between the Hoosiers and border rival Louisville.
College hoops preseason polls were unveiled this week. Duke tops the men’s poll, with Indiana checking in at No. 11, Louisville No. 13 and Purdue No. 15. Butler and Notre Dame both are receiving votes and surely will have a national impact before season’s end. Other prominent regional favorites include No. 2 Kentucky and No. 7 Xavier, and Big Ten powers Wisconsin and Michigan State, at No. 9 and 12, respectively. My former team and the alma mater of Fever stars Marissa Coleman and Lynetta Kizer, Maryland, anchors the poll at No. 25.
On the women’s side, despite a 75-game win streak and four straight national titles – the last of them celebrated here at Bankers Life Fieldhouse last April – UConn is NOT the No. 1 ranked team in the land. That distinction is proudly owned by Notre Dame which assumes the top spot in the poll for the first time in 15 years.
Fever stars Natalie Achonwa and Devereaux Peters can be proud of that ranking, and Fever fans can be proud of a former Fever point guard, Niele Ivey, who was recently promoted as the Irish’s associate head coach.
The women’s Top 25 features Baylor at No. 2, the defending champion Huskies at No. 3, followed by Tiffany Mitchell’s alma mater, South Carolina, at No. 4. Regional favorite Louisville is No. 5 and the Terrapins once made famous by Coleman and Kizer are No. 6.
The favorite to win the Big Ten and lead the conference tournament into Indy is Ohio State, who ranks No. 7. Next among Big Ten teams is a rising favorite locally as second-year coach Teri Moren guides the Hoosiers into a No. 23 preseason ranking. Moren, like Stephanie White, is a disciple of former Fever coach Lin Dunn. Dunn is now an assistant at Kentucky who currently ranks 19th. White, in her first year at Vanderbilt, hopes to lift the Commodores into national notoriety.
I’d be willing to bet that at least one player on all of those hoops teams lists the Chicago Cubs as their favorite baseball team. Did I mention they won the World Series last night? Even Lin Dunn watched baseball last night, or so she told me on Twitter. Indeed, it was that big a night – one of the biggest nights in sports history. But I digress…
As I turn from baseball on Nov. 3, sports fans everywhere already have transitioned from summer to fall. Many of us will be engaged with college and pro football for a couple of months, but our annual fascination with high school, college and pro hoops begins NOW!
The Pacers play their 5th of 82 games tonight at Milwaukee, and every month they will celebrate a different decade of a wonderful 50 years of professional basketball in Indiana. College teams play exhibition games over the next two weeks and within a month, wins and losses begin to matter.
For Fever fans, a pending coaching announcement is due over the coming months and a 2017 schedule will be revealed as early as December. Many Fever players already are plying their trade with overseas clubs around the globe.
In truth, basketball never stops, even while the Cubbies are affecting a seismic change in sports history.
I am fortunate to enjoy my baseball passions as a fan each year throughout the summer WNBA season, often visiting Major League ballparks when schedules align with Fever road travels. The Colorado Rockies are my hometown favorite team and I grew up a Red Sox fan prior to the Rockies’ birth in 1993. I thoroughly enjoy all things baseball and it is fun to be a fan outside of my summer season with the Fever. I love the history of the game, and the Cleveland Indians deserve as much praise as the Cubs for making the 2016 World Series truly an epic series.
During October, I usually enjoy the MLB playoffs during the first weeks of my WNBA “offseason.”
Alas, the calendar says it’s November now, the Cubs are champs and it is time to change gears… basketball season is upon us again!
Interested in Fever tickets? Join us for Select-A-Seat and you can test drive the best available seat location for 2017. You can also meet new head coach Pokey Chatman and All-Star guard Briann January.