If you’re reading this, you probably live in Charlotte. And if you live in Charlotte, you definitely live in North Carolina.* And if you’re in North Carolina, there’s a great chance you have at least a passing interest in college basketball. This probably comes in the form of cheering for your alma mater, or rooting for one of the successful programs up the road to fail spectacularly. Either way, you’re likely dialed into the goings-on of college basketball.
Charlotte is an interesting hodge-podge of college basketball fans. This stew is made up of an unsurprisingly large and passionate UNC contingent, a smaller but nearly as loud Duke contingent, N.C. State fans quietly hoping this is the year their hearts aren’t ripped out, Wake fans eager to not be embarrassed, Clemson fans who have no idea when basketball starts and don’t care, South Carolina fans who are already talking about the 2016 football season, Davidson fans still riding high from Golden State’s NBA championship, and UNC Charlotte fans excited to see what Mark Price can build with his lofty pedigree. My point is, there are a ton of interesting college basketball storylines to follow in the area as the season kicks off.
But there’s another team worthy of your time, and every Charlottean should get behind them, regardless of his or her primary affiliation. Similar to how the denizens of Charlotte should all be UNC Charlotte football fans, I think we should all make some room in our hearts for Queens University’s men’s basketball team.
Queens Athletics teams are members of the South Atlantic Conference, a Division II conference with 12 member schools in the Carolinas and Tennessee. This means you’ll never be forced to choose between cheering for the Royals and your beloved Division I powerhouse. Well, at least not often. Queens generally plays a big school once or twice early in the non-conference schedule. You’re allowed to take that day off from your Queens fandom. But other than that day, you should be a full-blown Royal supporter. There are some specific reasons I’ll get to below as to why the Royals deserve your attention, but first, I’ll once again beat the drum that the more that we can see ourselves as a group of Charlotteans getting behind the local school, the less we’ll see ourselves as Clemson or NC State fans who hail from Somewhere Else who are biding our time in Charlotte. I’m not saying you should abandon your allegiances, I’m suggesting that you take the time to embrace the simple elegance of college athletics that are uniquely Charlotte, guilt-free from other rooting interests.
More practically, there are many reasons the Queens men’s basketball team should be your new #squad:
They’ve got a brand new arena
The Levine Center opened in August of 2013 and it still has that new arena smell. It’s got a wide concourse, bleachers that enable nice sight-lines, and some pretty good acoustics. Despite the newness, you can feel the stands rumbling when the crowd gets into it. It’s no Cameron Indoor, but the atmosphere will scratch your basketball-watching itch.
They’re located in the heart of town
Unlike fighting traffic up to Davidson or the University area on a weeknight to try and catch a game, if you work in town and live within the 485 loop, it’s relatively easy to get to Queens before tipoff. Sure, the intersection of Providence and Queens between 4pm and 7pm is where dreams go to die, but if you’re savvy you can navigate the back roads to get to the arena without too much trouble. It’s also a short hoverboard ride from Selwyn Pub, and the games are generally on the same schedule as Division I games, so grabbing a drink at Selwyn Pub for your team’s game before or after taking in the Queens game in person is a solid move.
The Head Coach has a Division I pedigree
Head Coach Bart Lundy is the real deal in college basketball circles. He brings serious experience to the Queens sidelines, having been an assistant at North Texas, as well as the Director of Basketball Operations at Marquette from 2009-2013, a team that made the Sweet 16 in 2010 and 2011. He’s coached multiple players that made the jump to the NBA, including current players, All-Star Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder.
He also has deep roots at Queens, having served as head coach from 1997-2003, where he experienced tremendous success (they went 29-4 in 2002-03). The program is in great hands, which is also evidenced by the fact that…
The team is going to be really good
Queens was picked to finish third in the conference according to the preseason coach’s poll, and they even received a vote for the top spot overall. They return 91% of their scoring from last year’s team, which finished third in the conference and made the semifinals of the conference tournament. If you come out to see them, chances are you’ll leave happy with a win.
Tickets are Inexpensive
You can become a season ticket holder for $49, which gets you into 14 home games, easily the most budget-friendly season ticket option in town.
Gameday has something for everyone
Last year, I took my almost-one-year-old son to our first Queens game, which happened to be nationally televised, and I was blown away by the experience. At the top level concourse, there were kids running around and having a grand old time, but as you moved closer to the floor, the intensity and interest in the game increased with every step. The student section was fired up and stood literally on the floor, reacting with gusto to every basket, turnover, and call by the referee. I’ve been to plenty of college basketball games, but never one that had such a range of options for how to spend your time at the game.
For my situation, it was perfect. My son had enough of the BabyBjorn carrier about an hour into the game, and it was time to leave just after halftime. Which I didn’t mind doing since the tickets were inexpensive enough that I felt I had gotten my money’s worth. If you’re paying $20 to $40 a pop to get into a typical D1 game, you probably don’t have the luxury of walking away when you’ve had your fill.
The bottom line here is that we’ve got high-quality basketball being played in a brand new, easily accessible arena right in our backyard. And it has broad appeal, offering intense action for hardcore fans, as well as a nice reason to get out of the house on a cold January afternoon if you’re looking for something to do with your insane kids. Go Royals. I’ll see you at the first home game on Saturday, November 21 at 4:00 PM at the Levine Center.
*ppl forget that. Look it up.
(Photo credit: Cover photo via the Queens University Facebook page)