By John Torenli
With Downtown Brooklyn wrapped up in March Madness, the Barclays Center gave our borough’s college hoops fanatics something to look forward to come the holiday season Tuesday.
The future home of the Brooklyn Nets will play host to the first-ever Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival, featuring Michigan vs. West Virginia and Fordham vs. Princeton, on Dec. 15.
The Wolverines and Mountaineers, meeting for the first time ever, will be the marquee attraction during the NCAA doubleheader, with the contest to be televised on one of the ESPN networks.
LIU-Brooklyn, which hosted Wednesday’s Northeast Conference Championship Game for the second straight year at the Wellness, Recreation and Athletic Center, will play its first game at the Barclays Center one week after the Winter Festival, hosting Seton Hall on Dec. 22. Manhattan College will take on South Carolina in the second game that evening.
The twin doubleheaders will feature teams from powerhouse conferences including the Big East, the ACC, the Big 12 and the Big Ten.
“Playing in the new Barclays Center will truly be a great opportunity for us,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “Michigan has such a strong alumni base in New York City and surrounding areas that we could not turn down the chance to play in front of them.
“I have many fond memories of my time at West Virginia,” he added. “Facing the Mountaineers and their tremendous coach, Bob Huggins, will give Michigan another opportunity to play against one of the very best teams in college basketball today.”
With the Nets scheduled to begin play at the state-of-the-art arena in November, the Barclays Center is certainly doing its best to shoot down any notions that it will be a one-trick operation. The Islanders have already scheduled an exhibition game against the Devils at the hockey-capable facility on Oct. 2.
Also, Barclays is likely to become the new home to the LIU-St. Francis “Battle of Brooklyn” rivalry, as well as hosting various concerts, including the arena-opening Jay-Z shows scheduled for September.
There will also be professional boxing at Barclays, and the Public School Athletic League and other local high school teams are all looking forward to having a new home court for their biggest matchups in years to come.
“We’re certainly excited about playing a quality non-conference game in Brooklyn at the new Barclays Center,” Huggins noted. “Our alumni base is strong in the New York area, and we’ve also had a lot of great players from New York and New Jersey in recent years.
“It is important for us to play in the New York area on an annual basis,” he continued. “We look forward to playing a storied program like Michigan and to play against another ranked team with an outstanding coach in John Beilein, who has built a winner at every school that he has coached during his career.”
Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark is determined to make the Nets’ soon-to-be-completed new home a fixture on the NCAA circuit.
“Barclays Center is quickly becoming a must-play for major college basketball teams in the nation,” he said. “The Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival and the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational will deliver exciting match-ups that include perennially powerful programs and rising local schools.
“These games will provide a charged atmosphere at Barclays Center as we deliver major college basketball to Brooklyn,” he added. “We are committed to elevating Barclays Center into a significant national collegiate sports venue.”
On Wednesday, the arena also revealed that it would host the Legends Classic Championship Rounds from Nov. 19-20. Mythic programs like Georgetown, Indiana, UCLA, and Georgia will compete in the event.
Nets All Access ticket buyers will have the opportunity to purchase tickets to these events before the general public. For more information, visit www.barclayscenter.com.