The term "bucket list" will go down in history as one of the great sayings of the first half of this century, all the hip people use the term, I am not hip or even cool, but I do know what west coast basketball fans should see in the next few years if possible.
With the season actually less than four months away, it is time to start planning. Not everyone can afford to travel, they might not have the health to do so, so all of the things I am going to talk about can be seen on TV, but if you can go live, GO FOR IT. Nothing like being there in person.
1. UTAH STATE----- The best college basketball atmosphere of any arena in the country. Logan, Utah is a beautiful city and the Aggie fans are just great to watch. They are into the game, have some great songs they sing during the time-outs and do it for the most part in a respectful manner. I am sure it helps they win all the time at home, so get there soon, before Stew Morrill decides to leave as head coach and that would set the program back. Stew, just win an NCCA tournament game sometime please.
2. Power Pep Band--- The Portland State Vikings have the best pep band out west. Small gym, but usually you can get into the Stott Center. While the teams have had some nice success in the past five years, this band is worth it. They not only can play music, they are entertaining, constantly on the opponents and referees. They even have a trombone player who I am not sure if he ever puts his lips to the mouthpiece, but he is worth watching the whole evening with his antics. The great part is none of these band members will ever graduate, not being PSU students, I am not sure where they come from, but one thing is certain they fit Portland, Oregon's unofficial motto, "keep Portland weird".
3. Maui Classic-- I have never been, but everyone who has, always wants to go back soon. Once again small gym, usually hotter than heck inside, but without question the best field of any of the pre-season tournaments. Usually held the week of Thanksgiving, you also will see plenty of famous basketball people hanging around, after all it is Hawaii, in the start of winter. If the talented teams are not enough, there is always the suspense if the home team Chaminade will pull a huge upset, as they have done on occasion.
4. Haas Pavilion---The California Bears are an up and down team, you never know each year what you are going to get on the floor, but for sure it is worth going and watching the season ticket holders that sit behind the scorer's table. They ooze San Francisco, not Berkeley, old time quality people. You can just tell Bear season tickets have been in the family since the first game in the school's history. These men are the true example of rail-birds, they love the Bears and they love sitting on the rail. There is nothing else like it in the Pac-12.
5. Gonzaga--If you can get in. Good atmosphere, if your in the arena and you do not have either white, blue or red as part of your attire, you can guarantee that someone will go out and buy you a shirt and then ask you to pay for it. Of course the Zags, along with Arizona and UCLA have been the kings of west coast basketball in the last 20 years. And kings fits the way the fans act. Not all, but many Gonzaga fans are the kings of arrogance. I just like to go and watch the arrogance, but I have more class than to go into the arena and hold a sign up "just get to the elite 8", which is missing on the resume. Zag fans, act like you have never been there before.
6. The Pit---The greatest name of any basketball arena in the world. Frank Mercogliano of the New Mexico staff (one of the really good guys in sports) recently told me how it got the name. I was looking for more of an exotic answer, but the floor basically is just like any pit you would see, deep into the ground and that is all to the story. But beyond, the Lobos are usually very good and the place is loud, fun and the second best west coast atmosphere in basketball, next to Utah State. In addition, the people in New Mexico are as friendly as it gets. This is a must see.
7. Of course there are other places, Pauley Pavilion, Warner Pacific College in the middle of Portland, Oregon, both Alaska schools that play in the GNAC conference and Mac Court.
Uh oh, I forgot, Mac Court is no longer, progress is great but there was just something about the old place that is hard to forget.
So there is plenty of choices and I kind of wrote this as a tribute to my good friend Jim Jorgensen, who loves to travel around to unique sports venues, I hope I gave him something to think about.
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