NEW YORK - It never gets old.
Over forty years of making the trip to the ‘World’s Most Famous Arena,’ and the excitement is always there. It begins on the trip from New Jersey. Entering the Big Apple, the pulse quickens as you are drawn in by the faster pace of New York life. The rush hour commuters make their stressful way to and from. Your collective sympathies are with them. Getting nearer to the Garden, the attention turns in full focus to the game. In this case, it is four games, over two days. A concert right out on 33rd Street gains little more attention, that of the music lovers. Just another part of the New York scene.
The 2K Classic in this edition of the scene features Pitt, SMU, Marquette and Michigan. The semifinals were on Thursday, with the consolation and final Friday. SMU and Michigan advanced on the first night. Both games were not that close. A strong field is by no means an ironclad guarantee that each game will go to the wire.
The final night saw Pitt come from behind to win a close consolation game. The third-place games are often an exercise of two teams frustrated over semifinal elimination. Early season is different. Teams want to exit with a win and that win might help you during the NCAA selection process. The consolation game here proved to be the best.
In the final, Michigan basically led from tap to buzzer. The Wolverines were an offensive machine epitomized by efficiency, passing, cutting, and making shots; a fervent reminder during these days of deep analysis, the object of the game is to make shots while stopping your opponent from doing the same. The Wolverines are crowned champions and regarded as a team to watch in a season that has yet to hit Thanksgiving.
The 2K was a classic in name. Regardless, a venture to MSG still retains that revered distinction. It is special for players to take the hallowed floor, an honor for coaches to be on the sidelines and officials to referee at this venue. For fans and media, it is the same: A great place always rekindling some past recollection.
That is the reality of it all. The Garden has been an edifice of joy and heartbreak over the years. But always special, no doubt. The last two nights proved that. The next trip in is awaited with great anticipation.
The sign leaving Penn Station heading to Madison Square Garden is appropriately placed. Players competing here truly have arrived:
Outside the Garden, Seventh Avenue embraces rush hour:
A way of life for New Yorkers that needs no explanation:
The longtime gourmet delight, and favorite of Baylor coach Scott Drew after winning the NIT in 2013:
An impromptu concert outside Madison Square Garden before the semifinals:
Official Brian Dorsey makes his way out to the court:
Pitt coach Kevin Stallings with some helpful advice:
Michigan vs. SMU in championship game action:
Michigan coach John Beilein meets the media: