Monday, March 30, 2009

Down Memory Lane at the Final Four

In this week leading up to the men's (and women's) Final Four extravaganza, I thought it would be fun to review previous courts designed specially for the Final Four. The NCAA has a number of two-minute highlight videos up on YouTube from previous Final Fours, each of which provides information on how to purchase the full-length version. I took screenshots of freeze-frames of selected NCAA men's championship games, for the purpose of studying the patterns of floor designs. You can find these highlight videos by going to YouTube and typing in key terms for a given year's final, such as: 1985 Villanova Georgetown.

The earliest case I could find of a major location-specific logo gracing center court was at the 1986 Final Four in Dallas, Texas. It is shown in the montage below (upper-left), which you can click on to enlarge.

In 1983, the University of New Mexico appears to have used its regular floor to host the Final Four, with the slight exception of a small circular NCAA logo in the middle of the center circle (upper- and center-right of montage). For the 50th Final Four in 1988, held in Kansas City, a special "50" logo was used (lower right). Finally, the lower left shows the 2001 floor, whose only distinction in my mind is its ugliness.

The last three years are shown below, giving us a pretty good idea of what this weekend's court is going to look like...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

NCAA Regionals -- More of the Same

I suspect that many of you, like me, were hoping that the second (regional) weekend of play in the NCAA men's tournament would feature some new floor designs, beyond last week's ubiquitous configuration of blue center-court blobs and blue semi-circles above the free-throw lines. If so, the courts on display tonight from Glendale, Arizona and from Boston are major disappointments. The NCAA at least could have featured a different color for each site!

The NCAA men's and women's tournaments are, of course, not the only Division I competitions taking place. There's also the NIT and Women's NIT. But that's not all. Third- and fourth-tier men's teams can also play in the College Basketball Invitational or Tournament.

It was in the CBI that Wyoming's Adam Waddell did his famous flip-and-crash dunk that has been such a sensation on television and on the Internet. I don't know about you, but I think Wyoming's court, which appears in the video, is pretty sharp. I like the horse-and-cowboy logo at midcourt, plus the Mountain West Conference logo in the key.

UPDATE: The NCAA does have a pretty nice court in use -- for Division II. Unlike the D-I tourney where only the "Final Four" teams are brought to the concluding location, the D-II event brings together the last eight remaining teams in one venue to play the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and finals (Springfield, Mass., appears to be the permanent site for D-II). Here are some shots of the "Elite Eight" court.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

NCAA Tourney Open Thread

It looks like, at most, there will only be slight variation in the appearance of different first-round sites' floors for the NCAA men's tournament. In my viewing market of Lubbock, Texas, I first got a few minutes of the LSU-Butler contest from Greensboro, North Carolina. Then I was taken to the Texas A&M-BYU game from Philadelphia, which I think will be the primary game for my part of the country in this time slot. I'm also getting some cut-in to the Memphis-Cal State Northridge game in Kansas City.

All the courts have what appears to be an oversized blue circle at center court, with the letters "NCAA," similar to what's shown here.

At Greensboro, the rest of the court did not have any solid, painted-in areas except for the semi-circles above the free-throw lines (in blue). Same for Kansas City.

At Philly, it's pretty much the usual 76ers' floor (which already has a lot of blue), except for the NCAA circle at midcourt.

I have two immediate reactions: (a) for me, with court designs, variety is the spice of life, so I don't like the push for uniformity; and (b) given that there appears to be a single prototype design (as seen in Greensboro and Kansas City), I think it's ugly.

I invite those of you who get games from other tournament sites to describe the court designs you see, in the Comments section of the blog. And, by all means, let me know if you agree or disagree with my opinions.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

NIT Floors

The National Invitation Tournament (NIT) is now underway for teams that couldn't quite make the NCAA field. The only special floor decoration used at the campus sites for the early rounds appears to be the diamond-shaped logo placed diagonally off the center circle. As noted in the emblem, the semifinals and finals of the NIT will take place at New York City's Madison Square Garden.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

ACC Tournament Floor

The Atlantic Coast Conference's minimalist center-court is a refreshing change of pace. However, why did they have to insert large "ACC" initials both by the sidelines and in the keys? The conference has a nice logo, which it could have used in place of one of the "ACC" blocks.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Spectrum's "Final Floor"

The Spectrum in Philadelphia is coming down. It was completed in 1967 to house the NBA's 76ers and NHL's Flyers, which it did until 1996, when the larger and glitzier Wachovia Center (also known at various times as the CoreStates Center and First Union Center) opened a short distance away.

For another 13 years, the Spectrum has survived, hosting minor-league hockey, indoor soccer, and occasional college basketball games (including the Atlantic 10 tournament, as recently as 2002), among other things. But now, the Spectrum has reached the end of its run and will be demolished later this year as part of an entertainment development.

All this year, tribute is being paid to the Spectrum. As one example, the arena's history has been captured in a website called Remember the Spectrum (complete with online sales of Spectrum paraphernalia).

As a further nod to the Spectrum's basketball history, tonight the Sixers will come back to host the Chicago Bulls, for one last NBA game. Accordingly, I took some screen captures from YouTube videos of classic 76ers-Lakers moments of the early 1980s (see the top of this posting). As shown above, for much of its history, the Spectrum featured a center-court design that presented a simplified version of the visible color spectrum.

And via the Sports Uniform Watch blog, I found this article about how the 76ers commissioned a new basketball-court surface that will reproduce the old look, for tonight's game.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Big Yellow Taxi -- Big East Men's Floor

The center-court logo for the Big East men's tournament at Madison Square Garden has a cute touch with the New York City yellow taxicab. I wasn't sure how well the cab could be discerned from the screen capture of the court (from ESPN 360), so I provided another image of the logo, as well.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Big East Women's Floor

Matt R. stated in a comment on a previous thread that the Big East women's tournament had a "huge" center-court logo. Even the word "huge" is an understatement, like saying that Michael Phelps is a "good" swimmer. Also, does anyone know if the unusual depiction of the year 2009, with the "20" at 90 degrees to the "09," has some special meaning?

Monday, March 9, 2009

WCC & CAA: Really Big Logos!

Two conferences, the West Coast Conference (WCC; top photo) and the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) evidently wanted to make sure nobody missed the fact that these were the CHAMPIONSHIPS going on. The WCC logo appears to have been designed like a shimmering sign on the Las Vegas strip, in honor of this year's host city. The CAA logo in Richmond, Virginia, is only slightly less overwhelming, to me.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Conference Tournament Floors

We're currently in the early stages of conference-tournament mode in Division I NCAA men's and women's basketball. Three conferences -- the Atlantic Sun, Big South, and Ohio Valley -- are holding their men's championship games today. Other leagues are currently in the middle of their tournaments, while the rest -- mainly the major conferences -- won't be starting theirs for a few days.

The host cities of many conference tournaments create special floors for the occasion. Below are a few of my favorites; these are from previous years, so you won't necessarily see the same designs this year. I encourage readers to submit, via the Comments system, links to photos of whatever conferences' tournament floors you can find!

Let's start out with the Big 12. Whichever year the following photo was taken, the conference came up with a design that showcased all 12 schools' logos, in what I would say is a crisp, elegant fashion that does not overwhelm (source).

Next, we have the Big 10. This screenshot from what is currently the front page of the conference website shows how a full set of school logos can be depicted in more of an "artsy" way, via a pinwheel motif at center-court.

Finally, for now, we have the Missouri Valley Conference. The MVC tournament earns my accolades not so much for visual aesthetics, but rather for its clever play on words in relation to its permanent St. Louis home: Arch Madness!!! (This is a screen capture from a freeze-frame of a YouTube video, so it's not all that clear. My apologies.)

Again, it would be great if our little online community of basketball-floor aficionados could document as many conference-tournament designs as possible. Thus, if you discover any good online photos, please post the links via the Comments.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Major Makeover: Temple University

Besides West Virginia (entry below), another school that has toned down its basketball court design in recent years is Temple University in Philadelphia.

From a highly elaborate drawing in the two-point shooting areas emphasizing the Owl wing feathers (source), Temple has switched to a more traditional scheme with only the keys and center circle painted in (source). The latter features the university's unique "T" design.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Major Makeover: West Virginia

The West Virginia Mountaineers' court this year looks very different from how it's looked in the past. Gone are the blue painted-in two-point areas (with white lines resembling the black seams on a basketball) and empty keys. Now, the solid yellow rectangular keys represent the only coloration in the halfcourt areas. (The sources for these photos are here and here.)