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Tyler Greenawalt | | March 29, 2016

One man’s quest to watch a game at every championship school

  Michael McAllister has visited 21 of the 35 championship schools since his journey began.

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.

In 2006, while attending Ohio University for graduate school, McAllister and a few classmates took a road trip to the state of North Carolina that ignited a journey to watch a game at every school that's won a championship. All 35 of them.

“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.

  Michael McAllister and his children visited the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin to check off another team.

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."

School Arena State Date Opponent Result
Kansas Allen Fieldhouse Kansas 1/25/92 Nebraska W
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
Kentucky Rupp Arena Kentucky 1/21/09 Auburn 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
Michigan Crisler Arena Michigan 2/23/11 Wisconsin 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
UTEP Haskins Center Texas 2/27/14 Tulsa L
Indiana Assembly Hall Indiana 12/22/14 New Orleans W
Wisconsin Kohl Center Wisconsin 12/29/15 Purdue L
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  


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