Big East in the Big Apple
Madison Square Garden has played host to the Big East Tournament every year since 1983. In my humble opinion it is the best place to host a basketball tournament. For starters, there is so much to do outside of the arena itself. World class food and entertainment are scattered throughout the city. For any cuisine that you can think of, there are at least 20 different options to choose from. I happened to stop at a little joint called Non Solo Piada. They sell Italian paninis, pasta (try the gnocchi) and piadina which are basically Italian quesadillas. I highly recommend it as it is great for people on the go.
If you arrive in New York in the morning you can take in a show and have a nice meal all before heading to MSG for the game. New York also has many museums and bookstores for those who enjoy something other than shows or sports. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is particularly impactful to see in person. It’s very easy to get into MSG through mass transit since Penn Station is right below.
Inside Madison Square Garden is just as exciting as outside on the streets of NYC. MSG is full of history and you can feel it from the second you walk in. As you walk along the concourse you can see some famous moments that have occurred there. Mementos, plaques, and banners serve as reminders that you are in the mecca of basketball. The Garden was recently renovated from 2011-2013 and the results were awesome. The arena is modern while also being old fashioned and timeless. The food inside Madison Square Garden is top notch. You can find any kind of food you desire. In addition to your usual stadium staples you can find sushi, wraps, salads and pizza. Two places I would highly recommend are Fuku and Simply Tacos by Jean-Georges. Fuku serves spicy chicken sandwiches while Simply Tacos serves an assortment of tacos. There are also many different bars and watering holes throughout the arena. MSG supplies Coca-Cola soft drinks.
The best thing about seeing the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden is the atmosphere. Two hours before tip-off you could feel the energy even with the arena empty. A full MSG crowd with the intensity of Big East basketball is just an experience that every sports fan owes it to themselves to experience. No matter where you sit at MSG you’ll have terrific sightlines and have a great time. There are rivalries between many of the Big East schools but the fans respect each other. There’s a high level of basketball IQ with Big East fans, they definitely know their stuff. There are not enough good things to say about this tournament being held at this venue. The access, food, atmosphere, fans and overall ambience are top notch. I absolutely can say that Madison Square Garden is the best place to host a college basketball conference tournament.
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