The traditional sporting distraction Thanksgiving weekend is football. But when it comes to the sheer volume of games around the holiday, college basketball fans might have it better than gridiron fans — especially in this market.
The NIT Season Tip-Off, better known as the Preseason NIT, serves as the unofficial start to the Division I campaign and will hold its semifinals tonight, Wednesday November 24, and Friday, November 26 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
As of this morning, StubHub had 279 tickets to tonight’s NIT semifinals ranging from listed prices of $19 for a seat in Corner 318 to $264 for a seat in Club Center 49, just off the bench and behind the east end basket. There are 353 tickets available — ranging from a $12 seat in the End 345 to a $499 seat in Club Center 51 — to the Friday doubleheader.
Leor Zahavi, the owner of New York-based Admit One, told TicketNews he’s sensing the same moderate interest in the NIT as in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament, whose semifinals and finals were held at MSG November 18-19. Zahavi said there is more interest in the Jimmy V Classic, a doubleheader at MSG scheduled for Tuesday, December 7 in which Kansas will play Memphis and Michigan State will oppose Syracuse.
“It’s been in line with years past,” Zahavi said of the NIT. “The Jimmy V Classic, right now we’re seeing a lot of demand on. That’s it right now.”
The NIT is far from alone on the college basketball schedule this week. There are nine other tournaments taking place from coast to coast that will either be completed or be contested entirely between Thanksgiving Eve and Sunday, November 28.
While the underdog “mid-majors” participate in these pre-season tournaments and have an opportunity to pull off the type of big upset that will catapult them to the national stage and into the NCAA Tournament discussion — as Virginia Commonwealth did last week by beating Winthrop and Wake Forest to reach the NIT semifinals — the fields are dominated by perennial national championship contenders that have fans who travel well regardless of economic climate.
UCLA (NIT Season Tip-Off), Villanova (NIT Season Tip-Off), Kansas (Las Vegas Invitational), Syracuse (Legends Classic in Atlantic City), Connecticut, Michigan State and Kentucky (all at the EA Sports Maui Invitational), Stanford (76 Classic in Anaheim) and Wisconsin (Old Spice Classic in Orlando) will all be in action this week.
“We feel those events are driven more by the teams that are involved as opposed to the current economic conditions,” Zahavi said.