Miami Sports Day

SEELY COLUMN: College basketball: can’t be much worse

By FRED SEELY

JAX SPORTS NEWS

We almost have reached the bottom of college basketball. We aren’t there yet, but it’s in sight.

If you are a college fan, you’re in the wrong town, pal. You may have two Division 1 schools but they aren’t making it easy for you to watch their games and, considering the opposition, you probably won’t want to bother.

The main culprit is Jacksonville University. It has a bad team, a terrible home schedule, poor promotion, plays in the near-worst conference and a dumpy place to play in a not-so-hot part of the city.

Don’t let the University of North Florida’s appearance in the NCAA tournament last year fool you. It has a so-so team, a terrible home schedule, poor promotion, the same near-worst conference and an arena that’s nothing special.

Playing downtown? No games from these two. If you must see basketball in the Veterans Memorial Arena, you’ll have to settle for an NBA exhibition and a doubleheader involving women’s teams.

The bottom is upon us.

Let us start with JU, which has been in a 45-year slide from the best team in college basketball to one of the worst (the Dolphins were ranked 343rd of 351 Division 1 teams last year by the respected Sagarin system.) 

Consider:
• They have moved all their games to Swisher Gym, a 50-year-old facility that looks like it was built years earlier.
• They play in the Atlantic Sun Conference, rated by Sagarin as 33rd of 35 last year. The A-Sun has a continually changing cast; it’s where teams start, and flee as soon as possible.
• In addition to their no-name conference schedule, their non-conference list of worse. It’s hard to imagine driving over to Arlington, hunting a parking place, and then paying to see (in order of appearance) Florida College, Thomas University, Florida A&M, Marist, Bethune-Cookman, Florida Memorial and Trinity Baptist. You’ve only heard of FAMU, Marist, Bethune and Trinity. And you know none of those are any good. Of this list, only three teams are Division I and none of those are much: Marist (No. 314,) Bethune (No. 330) and FAMU (No. 350 and next-to-last.)

Now, UNF.

They got to a reasonable level last year (No. 151 Sagarin,) went to the NCAA tournament last year and are trying to ride that wave, but consider:

• They only got into the tournament by winning the A-Sun tournament, which meant beating (in order of appearance) Stetson (No. 335,) Lipscomb (No. 300) and USC Upstate (No. 181.) Their NCAA experience lasted one game, losing to Robert Morris (No. 176.)
• Their home schedule is a tad better than JU’s but certainly nothing to drive halfway to the beach, park in a big garage and pay good money to see. They’s bringing in (in order of appearance ) FAMU, Texas Rio Grande Valley, Edward Waters, St. Francis (NY), Trinity Baptist, Coastal Georgia, Florida International and Austin Peay. Like JU, the Division 1 pickings are slim: FAMU, St. Francis (No. 161,) Florida International (No. 253) and Austin Peay (No. 318.)
• And, they play in the no-name A-Sun. Kennesaw State, anyone?
Now, time for a quiz. Of all the non-conference teams coming to town, how many of their hometowns can you name?

A few are easy: FAMU (Tallahassee,) Edward Waters (downtown Jacksonville) and Bethune (Daytona Beach) for sure, and you should know Trinity (it’s part of the megachurch on the west edge of Duval County.)

That leaves Florida College, Thomas University, Marist, Florida Memorial, Texas Rio Grande Valley, St. Francis, Coastal Georgia, Florida International and Austin Peay.

Eh? Give up? 

(In order of appearance: Tampa; Thomasville, Ga.; Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Miami; Edinburgh, Tex.; Brooklyn;  Brunswick, Ga.; and Clarksville, Tenn.)
We all know that this is an incredibly unsophisticated basketball town. Always has been. Football is king, particularly college football. It took a near-NCAA championship by JU to fill the old 8,000-seat Coliseum. 

JU tried playing in the 14,000-seat Arena for a few years and it added to the embarrassment, as most games were seen by 500 or so desultory souls.

UNF got more people to come but remember: this is an on-campus facility and games are something for students to do, other than roam around the Town Center.

So …
• If you really have nothing better to do, or
• If you are addicted to college basketball, or
• If you want to throw good money after bad, and
• If you want to see bad teams, everyone of which was outranked by 150 other schools last year,

Then …A season ticket at UNF is $140, at JU it’s $135.

Such a deal.

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