Dec. 28, 2007
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Broncos played nine of their first 12 on the road. 5-4 may not seem like an accomplishment but take a look at some of the places Santa Clara played and you may have a different feeling. Not all strike fear into opponents but most do. Seriously, these were some tough places for opponents to play.
For anyone who travels for a living, you live this much more than I do or the players do. It's not the best thing in the world to be away from family for a couple of days. Early wake-up calls, "Good morning, it's 6:05 AM! Weather forecast today in Minneapolis is a high of 16 degrees with a chance of snow flurries later today." (Sweet!) Airport security and waiting for flights aside, the big upside to all this pre-conference travel is some of the venues we get to see as "visitors" on the scoreboard.
I must remove a few of the stops from consideration for the "toughest place to play" competition. Shasta College for the Simpson game was more like a home game as it was Brody Angley's "Return-to-Redding, Calif.". The Hornets Nest (Sac State) was a small venue (capacity 1,200) and Reese Court (Eastern Washington) seemed barely half-full. The Events Center (San Jose State) is just down The Alameda/ Santa Clara so it's not like it's a long drive or plane flight. Don't get me wrong, road games are tough but some are tougher.
Lawlor Events Center (Reno, Nev.): 8,144 turned out for this one as the Wolfpack pulled away down the stretch for a 67-54 victory. Grade: B+
Huntsman Center (Salt Lake City, Utah): Nice road win for the Broncos in front of 9,408 red-clad Utah fans. Broncos have history in this venue. '93 NCAA's? Arizona? Need I say more? Grade: B+
Dee Glenn Smith Spectrum (Logan, Utah): This place was amazing. They open the building to students a little over an hour before tip off and a sea of navy comes running from the concourse down every aisle...students racing to fill the first several rows with "The Hurd" t-shirts on all of them. Passing one shirtless student around early second half. The students even throw alley-oop passes to the Utah State players during warm-ups. Grade: A+
Maples Pavilion (Stanford University): Always a tough place to play. Good court, close proximity for fans (7,348 in attendance) but the fans weren't a factor as the Broncos started slowly on the night Brooke Lopez returned to the lineup. Grade: B
Williams Arena (Minneapolis, Minn.): Built in 1928 it's the fifth oldest college basketball building in the country. They call it "The Barn" and other than everything inside being Maroon and Gold it has an old-time feel for sure. 12,548 on hand for this one and you can tell they support their Gophers. Grade: A
I'm just the broadcaster so I decided to ask Brody Angley, someone who has played in his share of road games in an SCU uniform, his thoughts on two of the stops. "Old School. I liked it.", he said referring to Williams Arena. As for the Smith Spectrum? "I liked that one too. The atmosphere was great. Those fans were great."
No more flights for non-conference and now all other trips will be WCC stops the Broncos know well. However, it really was a memorable non-conference season for the Broncos, as they covered more than 5,700 miles (5,727 to be exact) and traveled to five states (including Utah twice), while playing in a wide array of arenas. After that schedule, the Broncos should be ready for anything the WCC schedule throws at them.