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Why Is Top-Seeded Boston College Traveling To McNeese State For The NIT?

The question on everyone's mind today is why the hell is a 1-seed in the NIT traveling to Lake Charles, Louisiana to take on the 8th-seeded McNeese State Cowboys in the First Round of the NIT? In today's Boston Globe, BC coach Steve Donahue had this to say when asked about BC hitting the road instead of hosting a first round game:

"Our building's not available,'' Donahue said. "That's what I'm told.''

When asked whether this was some sort of statement of protest for not making the NCAA Tournament's field of 68, he added: 

"Not at all,'' he said. "At this point, your kids are excited to still play. You play a good team, you go down there, and whether it's home or away it doesn't bother us.''

For his part, Donahue is saying all the right things about this. The higher seed hitting the road is certainly not unprecedented, as Dayton is also playing in a first round road game against the lower-seeded College of Charleston. Dayton has a much more legit excuse, though, as the Flyers' home court is being used for Tuesday and Wednesday's NCAA Tournament play-in games. Last year, #1 seeded Illinois traveled to #8 Stony Brook for a game in the NIT.

BC was put into the same situation in its last NIT appearance in 2003. That year, the Eagles hit the road for their Opening Round NIT game at Fairfield despite being the higher seed of the two teams (if I recall correctly). The Eagles were ousted in Philadelphia by Temple in the next round.

The official reason stated in the Globe article was that Conte Forum is booked this week to accommodate both the men's and women's ice hockey programs, who will be preparing for postseason play (the women are in the Frozen Four this weekend, and the men are in the Hockey East semifinals at the Garden). 

The unofficial reason? I doubt GDF felt that the school would make any money hosting an NIT game ... against McNeese State (no offense intended) ... on a Tuesday night ... with a 9 PM tip. Oh, and charging at least $15 a ticket.

The school found itself in a similar position just a few days ago, when we had to charge for the BC women's NCAA Tournament game against Minnesota on Saturday. Listed attendance for BC's NCAA Quarterfinal game was just 583 (which is a shame, really). I can't imagine the school made any money on the event. In all likelihood, we probably took a loss on the event.

My only hope is that, should the Eagles advance to the Second Round, that they would choose to host a game at Conte against the winner of the Northwestern/Milwaukee game. The second round is to be played from March 18-21, and the women will be off to Erie, Pa. for the Frozen Four, while the men will be cross-town defending last year's Hockey East Tournament Championship at the Garden.

For me, this is a big reason why I feel BC needs a basketball-only arena. The Eagles earned the right to host NIT games through to the Semifinals at the Garden. But instead, the senior class of Joe Trapani, Corey Raji, Biko Paris and Josh Southern have to hit the road for their farewell tour. That blows.

In my humble opinion, Conte Forum is first and foremost an ice hockey facility. The student sections behind the baskets stink for the most part, and the donor-based seating in the bottom of Conte doesn't create any sort of home court advantage. The students are too far away from the action up in the bleachers on the second level, and I'm sure the lack of a proper basketball atmosphere is a big reason why students aren't showing up for our games. Simply put, Conte is a one of the best college hockey arenas in the country and just a 'meh' basketball facility.

Just don't ask me where you'd put a basketball-only facility on campus. With a capacity of 8,606, Conte is already the second smallest basketball arena in the ACC, behind only Miami's BankUnited Center. It's also just the 129th largest in Division I. A basketball-only facility would have to seat just as many fans as Conte Forum currently does for basketball, especially for games against North Carolina, Duke and other high-profile opponents, and there's really nowhere else on campus you could build the thing. Not with adequate parking, anyhow. 

Boston College building a basketball-only arena is a pipe dream, of course. I'd argue that "if you build it, they will come" if you are able to create student-only sections close to the court like some of the better college basketball facilities. But amidst a recession and the ever-tense relations we have with the city of Newton, the AD has probably convinced himself that only if they come will he build it.