College basketball: One man’s quest to watch a game at every championship school
Michael McAllister grew up a basketball fan. And for a while, he, his father and his brother attended NBA games. But McAllister was first struck by the allure of college hoops when he took a trip to Allen Fieldhouse in 1992 to watch the Kansas Jayhawks as a 15-year-old living in Kansas City.
That was the first time he’d watch a championship program play basketball, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
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“We did UNC, NC State and Duke in one weekend,” McAllister recalls. “At that point I just kind of thought it would be cool to try to accomplish. I’ve never heard of anyone trying to do it.”
After watching NC State take on Seton Hall on Jan. 25, the group saw a 1 p.m. game between the Tar Heels and Arizona in Chapel Hill on Jan. 28 before taking the 14-mile drive to Durham for Duke’s bout with Virginia.
While the NC State and UNC games were “unremarkable” -- the Wolfpack lost to Seton Hall and Tyler Hansbrough scored 21 points in an 86-69 Tar Heel win -- the Duke game featured a 40-point performance by J.J. Redick in a jam-packed Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“It was impressive to watch,” McAllister said. “In terms of like an individual performance, that one really sticks out to me because he was so masterful, and it was at Cameron.”
From there, McAllister began crafting his plan to go to a home game for all 35 championship teams.
“It’s just kind of a patchwork of trips with the kids, trips with friends and if I’m on a business trip somewhere and I see one of the schools is playing nearby,” he said. McAllister is account manager at Nielsen Scarborough in Chicago, Illinois.
McAllister takes in the entire experience at every venue, walking around the arena and snapping photos of the championship banners, trophies, anything symbolizing the history of the team. If something he’s looking for isn’t in the building, he’ll track it down. Recently, he’s begun tweeting out his adventures, but he also keeps a tally of all the teams he’s watched. As of this year, McAllister still has 14 schools to see, mostly on the West Coast.
However, McAllister does have one rule: He can only check off the home team when he attends a game. So for example, when he saw Wisconsin beat Michigan in Ann Arbor on a Josh Gasser 3-pointer on Feb. 23, 2011, McAllister only checked off Michigan. This year, he checked off Wisconsin with a Christmas trip to the Kohl Center with three of his kids.
He's even made the treks to the lesser-known champions, like Holy Cross (who won the 1947 title) and CCNY (who won the 1950 title).
“You go to [Holy Cross] and it’s cool to have a statue of Bob Cousy. They have a really neat display in the atrium," McAllister said. “[CCNY] was a dominant program in the late '40s and early '50s, and they’ll be the only program to win the NIT and NCAA in the same season. I went to a game there a few years ago. I’ve been to high school games with more people, but it was cool just to go and get it checked off and go and see the banner.”
Through his journey, McAllister said he’s grown a much deeper appreciation for the game of college basketball.
“It is kind of interesting to see how the game has progressed just looking at the teams that have won and how you’ll never see teams like that win more,” he said. “Just even seeing how the trophies have changed over the years is interesting. Wyoming’s (1943 title) trophy looks like any other trophy. But in the 1940s, it was the big thing."
“It’s a good way to see different places, see what basketball is like in different conferences, traditions, different venues," McAllister added. "It gives you a sense of where the game has come from."
|North Carolina State||PNC Arena||North Carolina||1/25/06||Seton Hall||L|
|Duke||Cameron Indoor Stadium||North Carolina||1/28/06||Virginia||W|
|North Carolina||Dean Smith Center||North Carolina||1/28/06||Arizona||W|
|Maryland||Comcast Center||Maryland||11/18/08||Youngstown State||W|
|Louisville||KFC Yum! Center||Kentucky||3/4/09||Seton Hall||W|
|Loyola (Ill.)||Gentile Arena||Illinois||1/23/10||Valparaiso||L|
|CCNY||Nat Holman Gymnasium||New York||2/7/11||Baruch College||L|
|Georgetown||Verizon Center||District of Columbia||2/11/13||Marquette||W|
|Connecticut||Harvey A. Gampel Pavilion & Hartford Civic Center||Connecticut||2/21/13||Cincinnati||W/OT|
|Marquette||BMO Harris Bradley Center||Wisconsin||1/11/14||Seton Hall||W|
|Holy Cross||Hart Center||Massachusetts||1/29/14||Loyola (MD)||W|
|Indiana||Assembly Hall||Indiana||12/22/14||New Orleans||W|
|Arkansas||Bud Walton Arena||Arkansas||1/21/16||Kentucky||L|
|Syracuse||Carrier Dome||New York||1/28/16||Notre Dame||W|
|Florida||Stephen C. O'Connell Center||Florida||2/9/16||Mississippi||W|
|Wyoming||Arena-Auditorium||Wyoming||2/24/16||San Diego State||L|
|Arizona||McKale Center||Arizona||Has not visited|
|California||Haas Pavilion||California||Has not visited|
|UCLA||Pauley Pavilion||California||Has not visited|
|Cincinnati||Fifth Third Arena||Ohio||Has not visited|
|La Salle||Tom Gola Arena||Pennsylvania||Has not visited|
|Michigan State||Breslin Center||Michigan||Has not visited|
|UNLV||Thomas & Mack Center||Nevada||Has not visited|
|Ohio State||Schottenstein Center||Ohio||Has not visited|
|Oklahoma State||Gallagher-Iba Arena||Oklahoma||Has not visited|
|Oregon||Matthew Knight Arena||Oregon||Has not visited|
|San Francisco||War Memorial Gymnasium||California||Has not visited|
|Stanford||Maples Pavilion||California||Has not visited|
|Utah||Huntsman Center||Utah||Has not visited|
|Villanova||The Pavilion & Wells Fargo Center||Pennsylvania||Has not visited|