It’s that time of the year again. For the third consecutive year, UC Davis Basketball is going to be nationally televised on ESPN after getting assigned a Wild Card game due to strong early-season performance. Like the first ESPN game two years ago, this game will be against conference power Long Beach State in a battle between two conference powers.
There are a multitude of reasons why this game is a must-see, but here are a few of the big ones:
1. This is the biggest game of the best year of Aggie basketball in a long time.
UC Davis has never had a winning season in Division I basketball (though we came close two years ago). This year, on the other hand, we’re only four games away from going getting to the magic number of 15 wins. Part of the reason for the successis that our opponents match our level of play (no UConn in the men’s schedule, unlike the women’s) but another part is that this team is just simply good. Betweewn players returning from injury and new faces joining the bench, Men’s Basketball has seen almost unilateral improvements in the last nine months. With our generally high-scoring games and amazing three-point shooting (#1 in the nation as of this writing), this newfound power also makes for very, very exciting basketball.
Meanwhile, Long Beach State is a perennial power and seems to be the favorite on the Big West sports forums. Although they may not necessarily win the conference tournament, LBS will likely act as a gatekeeper to conference play and to March Madness. Despite the Ags’ better winning percentage and higher mid-major ranking, Beach will probably be the automatic favorites going into this game. However, a home field advantage may even the playing field somewhat and put the Ags in reach of an upset.
2. It helps us win.
You try shooting a free throw with three thousand excited UC Davis students screaming at you. If you’ve never been to a basketball game before, know this: Aggie Pack has a very intricate system of cheers, chants, and white noise routines designed to unsettle the enemy. Here, where the Ags can potentially put five or six thousand people in seats, such enthusiasm actually might impact the outcome of a game. When you show up to a game you are not an idle observer; you’re a small but important piece in a larger mechanism that drives this athletics program.
3. These games publicize and legitimize the UC Davis brand.
UC Davis has appeared on national television three times in the last three years: once for the pepper spraying of students and twice for basketball. Simply put, we want to further tip the ratio in favor of basketball.
The underlying issue here is that UCD is a very good, very academic school that doesn’t necessarily have the reputation or publicity it deserves. While some would argue that the university should focus purely on academics to combat this, it’s just as easy to argue that sports are a way to promote the UC Davis name. When national audiences usually tune in to West Coast basketball, they see teams like Stanford, USC, Cal, UCLA, and Washington — good basketball teams, to be sure, but also rigorous, prestigious institutions in their own right. UC Davis needs to be associated with those names, and top-level basketball is a way to facilitate that link.
When ESPN provides commentary for the game on Saturday, they will be looking for fun facts about the schools. It would be a very safe bet to guess that they WILL discuss UC Davis’ academic reputation, and they WILL comment on our giant display of Aggie Pride. And those discussions matter, even if you don’t care for basketball.
4. It’s a social event.
An ESPN game is not just a quick sporting event; it’s a full-blown evening social activity. Standing in line yields all sorts of fun (last year’s festivities at the front of the pack included cupcakes delivered by the coach and a pick-up game of Catchphrase) and much of the pre-game setup is spent chatting with the people sitting nearby. Meanwhile, you’re constatly being presented with opportunities to get free stuff — it’s essentially a night at the carnival with friends.
For those looking for more organized socializing, there will be a student tailgate in the ARC parking lot. And presumably lots and lots of afterparties.
5. It’s just simply a great time.
Really, what better way to spend a cold Saturday evening than catching some hoops with friends at the Pavilion?
When: Saturday, January 10, 2015 at 8 PM
Where: UC Davis Pavilion (next to the ARC)
Who: UC Davis (11-3, 1-0) vs Long Beach State (7-10, 1-0)
Who will win: Probably Long Beach, but anything goes here
Aggie Pack Giveaway: Over 1,000 free shirts
Be there: 5 PM, no later than 6 PM
Official Facebook Event
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