Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK — The way Scoop Jardine figures it, if the NBA lockout lasts all season he might see Carmelo Anthony at a few more Syracuse games.
Carmelo and Amar’e Stoudemire figure to be back from their worldwide barnstorming tour by mid-November, giving them plenty of time to attend Big East basketball games this upcoming season.
And Jardine thinks they won’t be the only NBA fans who might crossover if the lockout persists.
“Most definitely, I can’t wait,” Jardine told SNY.tv Wednesday at Big East Media Day. “College basketball is really the best basketball, it’s the best time of the year. You can ask NBA players that, they all love it.
“If the NBA don’t come back, we’re going to have a lot of guys. It will be Carmelo Anthony at our games, Wesley Johnson. And that will help us.”
During an informal survey of players and coaches at media day, several coaches, including UConn’s Jim Calhoun, Pitt’s Jamie Dixon and Villanova’s Jay Wright, tended to agree with Jardine.
“I think we’ll actually have a little more play this year early because of the fact the NBA is not going,” said Calhoun, who last season led the Huskies to their third NCAA championship since 1999.
Dixon said the television landscape will obviously have to change if the lockout continues.
“I think ESPN and national TV would have to fill some of the spots with more games so more people will be watching,” Dixon said. “I think there’s a number of people that are going to tune into college basketball no matter what, but there are some pro fans who will end up watching some more college.”
Wright said Philly is such a basketball stronghold that fans of the NBA’s 76ers might just end up rooting harder for college teams.
“There are days when Villanova sells out the Wells Fargo Center, Temple has a great crowd at home and St. Joe at the same time,” he said. “And then the Sixers play that night, so I can’t imagine them getting more into it, but I guess they have to. But it’s such a basketball town, I think almost all the 76ers fans are somehow connected to a college team in Philly, so I just think they’ll become more passionate this year.”
Each city will likely react differently.
Providence coach Ed Cooley said he wants fans who support his team, not necessarily people who simply don’t have an NBA team to support.
“Not all NBA fans are college fans and not all college fans are NBA fans,” he said. “I want people to come watch Providence College because it’s Providence College, regardless of the NBA. I’m not here selling the NBA. I want people to watch college basketball, and particularly the Big East and, more important, Providence College.”
Louisville coach Rick Pitino told SNY.tv without the Knicks, some New York basketball fans might turn to St. John’s, but that in a place like Louisville — which has no NBA team — fan support wouldn’t vary that much.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins agreed.
“I don’t know how many more can watch, to be honest with you,” he said. “We’re not going to get a whole lot more people in our place, and Syracuse is not going to get a lot more I don’t think, and Lousiville is not and right down the line.
“We’ve got a very passionate fan base and the majority of the schools in this league have a very passionate fan base. I guess [it’s] $200 a ticket to go to the NBA, I guess they can buy their way in [to college games] right?”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.