STORRS, CT – Today’s task was to evaluate Rhode Island’s Ryan Center and UConn’s Gampel Pavilion. In addition, I was hoping to get enough material to write some kind of game story.
It was perfect. Akron, a very good MAC team with a coach that always gives me a good quote, coming in to try to steal a win from a strong Rams team from the A-10. That Mid-Major struggle was the early game.
The night cap was the Huskies taking on Big East foe, Rutgers. Sounds like a simple operation. Take care of the URI/Akron game then drive a little over an hour and knock out the late game.
Holy crap, did that plan go south in a hurry.
First off, the Rhode Island women played before the men and that game moved at the pace of some Post Office workers. The men’s game concluded with the Rams pounding Akron.
After the game I finish writing my evaluation then I stuck around and started to get some post-game comments and finally figured out it would take too long. I needed to get on the road to UConn.
The Rhode Island campus in Kinston is a good 10 miles on two-lane roads from I-95. It took me 20 minutes just to get to the highway and the whole trip is supposed to take 75 minutes.
After reaching I-95, it was a 25 mile drive down to the exit to start the cross country journey to Storrs.
I missed the turn off and it took me about 20 minutes to get turned around. Then it was too dark in my car to read the directions without pulling over to stop under a light, which I did every five minutes.
I finally asked a woman coming out of a gas station where UConn was from where we were. She knew, but explaining it to me in concise way was not something she could do easily.
She said, “Drive down this road until you get to the big rocks and turn right, then follow the signs.”
Of course, I wanted to know how far down it was and she explained she was not very good at miles.
So I asked how about in driving time. She thought for a few moments and said, “Drive for maybe 20 minutes.”
I then inquired as to what these rocks looked like.
“Not rocks, ducks! It is big ducks”
I said ducks and she said it back to me, only it still sounded a little like she was saying rocks.
So I said ducks again and she said something I could not understand but I thought it was either rocks or maybe ducks. I just couldn’t make it out for sure. I thanked her and proceeded to drive looking for some either big rocks or ducks.
After about 18 minutes I spotted a bridge that had big columns with big stone or cement ducks on top of them. So I guess she said ducks.
There was a sign for UConn and I went in the direction the sign was pointing and 10 miles later the campus appeared. I had no idea where the arena was located but I saw a line of cars and I figured it was in that direction.
So I decided to out-flank those cars by driving around the outside of the campus and coming in the back. I got around the back and there was a line of cars and I got in it. After about 10 minutes I inched up to a policeman and asked him where to find my correct parking lot.
In between directing cars he yelled out, “Up the hill and to the right.”
That was about as concise as telling me to turn at the duck or rock.
Thirty minutes later I inched up to Gumpel and there were no policemen, parking lot attendants or anyone that looked official.
There was a huge line of cars turning in next to the arena, so that looked like where I could park. If it was the wrong lot, I felt pretty confident I could talk my way in for free. I have done that earlier today at Rhode Island, at Butler several million times, UNC, NCSU, UGA, Maryland and a bunch more over the years.
But while I still about 150 feet away someone came out with a couple of barrels and closed off that parking area off to the right of the arena. To make it worse, he walked away.
Now there was nobody to talk into letting me park. I drove around outside the perimeter of the campus again and parked on the street about a mile from Gampel Pavilion and started walking toward the general direction of the arena.
I decided to shave some time off by cutting between two dorms. It was like a maze of dorms. I walked toward my right then back toward my left around another building and then right again and finally left around one more building and then I saw a fence.
That maze came to an abrupt end and I never found the cheese. I just walked 300 yards out of my way in 20 degree cold.
I was boiling mad at this point.
I finally got to Gampel and I was on the opposite side of the building from the gate I was supposed to enter. I walked around the whole building able to see inside the seating bowl each time I passed one of the three gates I had to go by before I got to the west gate.
I walked in still hopping mad and a guard told me I couldn’t bring a case into the building and that I should take it out to my car. You know, that car that is over a mile away on the other side of the maze of dorms.
I informed him it was my computer. He wanted to know why I had a computer. I told him so I could write about this crappy campus and piece of crap arena.
He said, “Oh, I thought you were a fan” I let him know that sports writers could be fat pigs too.
When I got in there was about six minutes left in the first half. I waited until half time and set my computer up. It took me one of the media people 15 minutes to figure how to get me logged on the wireless internet.
At this point I am a broken man. I have a lot of words to write and not much game left to do it.
So let’s see what we have here.
The Rams just took apart Akron. Rhode Island shot 55.8 percent (29-52) for the game and 57 percent from beyond the 3-point line (8-14).
Akron shot just 35 percent for the game and not a single Zip scored in double figures. Rhode Island’s strong defense had a lot to do with how poorly Akron played.
In the night cap, Connecticut beat the tar out of Rutgers 80-49. Rutgers shot just 28.8 percent (15-52) for the game UConn was big and fast. When they pulled down a rebound they shot out a quick pass and they were off to the races
Rhode Island against UConn might have been a better game today
And now for the arena comments.
Gampel Pavilion opened in 1989 and it is pretty underwhelming for a school from a Big Six Conference. It is not a dump, it is well kept, it is just the bare minimum in terms of a basketball venue.
It is a cement structure with a walkway around the inside of the seating bowl and that separates the upper seating section from the lower seating section. The upper seats on the ends are plastic bleachers and the rest are plastic chair backs. There is no outer concourse or lobby. In the four corners on the walkway level there are some concession stands that serve food. The score boards are attached to the wall above the seats. They are standard boards with video boards and player stats. I guess they don’t put more money and effort into making it nice because they play a fair number of games every year at the XL Center in Hartford and that is much bigger. The crowds at Gampel are big time. It holds 8000 and 2000 plus each game are screaming students. It is loud and intimidating.
Now Rhode Island built a much nicer arena. Ryan Center opened in 2002 with a thrilling overtime over USC.
It has a lower seating area with padded seats on the sides and upper seating consisting of plastic chairs with a beautiful carpeted concourse that runs under the upper seating section. The seats go up, rather than out, so the sightlines from the top row are great. It seats 7657 and every seat is a chair back.
Rhode island has pretty good parking nearby and they don’t charge to park I don’t think they have a maze of dorms either.
They just need more fans, it was at most, half-filled today.
So that is my East Coast swing for this year. Any day I can get two games in is a good day even with ducks, mazes and traffic jams.
Hey! Shouldn’t there be a cigar in this story?