Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Lake Superior State Lakers 79 vs Alderson Broadus Battlers 63 (NCAA Basketball, Division II) - November 12, 2017


When I first planned this trip, I expected to see the Lions (4-4) and Browns (0-8) do battle in a mediocre NFL game on Sunday afternoon. But as I explored the local sports schedule, I found another, more intriguing option that would allow me to visit a new venue that had a surprising history. Wayne State University, a Division II school that lies about a mile north of downtown, was hosting a men's basketball tournament at the Matthaei Center. What makes this venue so interesting is that it was built for the 1968 Detroit Olympics! Of course, the Olympics were held in Mexico City that year, but Detroit finished second in the bidding. In those days, cities started building stadiums even before the voting was finished, and the Matthaei Center was to be an Olympic venue had Detroit been awarded the games. When I learned that, I ditched the NFL for the GLIAC-GMAC tournament and venue #763 on my count.



Rather than give up my cushy parking spot next to Little Caesars Arena, I took Detroit's newest transit system, the QLine. This single-car tram runs up and down Woodward Avenue from downtown all the way to Grand Street, covering 12 stops in all. A 3-hour pass is just $1.50 (double that for a day pass) and the train arrives about every 15 minutes, with live maps at each stop telling you how long you have to wait. It took about ten minutes to make the trek three stops to Warren Street, where I disembarked into a persistent drizzle. I then hustled about a half-mile west along Warren, reaching the Matthaei Center at 12:30.



Named for Frederick Matthaei, who led the Olympic bid, and opened in 1965, the venue is now the campus rec center, with far more than just a basketball court. As you enter the main entrance (above) and make your way along the hallway, note the photos highlighting championship squads. Swimming and diving are particularly successful sports here.



There is also a large Hall of Fame honouring past Tartar and Warriors greats (the school changed the name in 1999 because nobody knew what a Tartar was). I only recognized one name, that of Joique Bell, who played briefly for the Lions. The Hall is very well done, and shows that even small schools have great athletic programs and participants (there are 231 here) that deserve to be recognized.



Several Wayne State alum have also been inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame and they are separately honoured as you can see above.



Inside the main gym, there are banners behind both baskets commemorating team achievements over the years. Tickets are $5 for general admission benches and $10 for seats with chairbacks, seen in the photo below. Other than a small concession stand in the far corner, that is about it for the actual gym itself.



The GLIAC/GMAC tournament is a two-day affair featuring two schools from each conference. After two games on Saturday, the first game on Sunday afternoon featured Lake Superior State Lakers (who, like Wayne State, are members of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) against Alderson Broadus Battlers from the Great Midwest Athletic Conference.



The game tipped right at 1:00 and man, it was quick. The refs called only 8 fouls in the first half, there were just three media timeouts (much shorter than those in televised games) and the teams played a fast-paced, back and forth game. The first half ended in just 30 minutes, while the game was over in less than 90, giving me plenty of time to get back to Little Caesars Arena for the Pistons 4:00 start. The Lakers won easily 79-63, taking both halves by 8 points.



What amazed me was the quality of the three-point shooting, even at this relatively low level. The Lakers shot 59% (10/17) while ABU wasn't awful at 11/29 (38%). Interestingly, both teams shot almost identically from inside the arc: 22/38 (58%) for LSSU and 10/27 (37%) for ABU.

Notes

Lake Superior State is based in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and has a Division I hockey team that one 3 national titles between 1988 and 1994. Alderson Broadus is based in Phillipi, West Virginia and I had never heard of them before. If you include Division II and III, you could spend your entire adult life traversing the country just watching college sports.

The Alderson Broadus players all have ABU on the back of their uniforms, where the player's name would usually be. At first, I thought that #10 was named Abu, then I noticed #3 was also Abu. Must be his brother, I surmised. Only when I saw the third player with ABU did it click. So yeah, I'm still an idiot.

ABU defeated Wayne State on Saturday, while Lake Superior State beat the other GMAC school Kentucky Wesleyan, and Wayne State beat Kentucky Wesleyan on Sunday, so the GLIAC won the tournament 3-1.

The Lions defeated the Browns 38-24. No regrets about missing that one.

Best,

Sean

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