Column: The allure of the Garden
NEW YORK - Matt Anania was one of the craziest and loudest UConn fans of his time as a student.
Now an alum, he bought a full strip of tickets for the East Regional at Madison Square Garden, where UConn will play Iowa State in the Sweet 16 Friday night. $571
"As soon as I knew (UConn playing at MSG) might be a possibility, I not only wanted it to happen, I wanted to be there," Anania said in a message Thursday afternoon.
He was not the only one to spend lavishly on tickets. Getting into Friday's games at the Garden will cost a fan no less than $595 on the secondary market, as of 5 p.m. Tickets for Friday's Midwest Regional Semifinals, featuring a Kentucky-Louisville showdown are $98, and $271 for the cheapest seat at the Final Four.
"I would consider myself a thrifty person," said Andrew DePaolo, another alum who spent $350. "But having the opportunity to cheer on my alma mater at the world's most famous arena is something worth paying for."
"It's an unbelievable thing," Tyler Olander said. "To have the highest tickets in MSG history, I think it's great. I feel bad for the fans who had to pay for the tickets, but that's UConn Nation for you."
UConn fans have continued to pay through the nose to get in Friday night. Students are paying other students for the right to their tickets. Metro North is running an extra train with extra cars to carry fans from Connecticut to New York for the game.
"They're just showing their love and support," Ryan Boatright said. "We just want to go out there and give them a show and give them something to be proud of."
UConn will not be playing at Madison Square Garden often anymore. It used to be a yearly tradition, but you know how the story has gone since the magic of 2011. You know where UConn stands now.
"I think it's hard as a UConn fan to come to terms with both our departure from the Big East and the general lack of respect for the AAC," DePaolo said. "That said, this is a huge opportunity for both the team and our fans to prove that UConn is a powerhouse regardless of what conference we're playing in."
For the players, this opportunity - which is quickly approaching "once in a lifetime" territory - is one that they do not want to let slip.
"It's the big stage," Boatright said. "Nobody wants to lose on the big stage. Once you get to the big stage, once you get to those pressure moments, we just find a way to dig out those wins. I don't know how, I don't know why, we just do it."
Many of those pressure moments, many of the most memorable in UConn history, have come at the Garden.
Seven Big East Tournament titles.
UConn's history was built on the greatness it achieved at MSG, and its future could be affected by what happens this weekend.
Knowing that, and knowing they will have an overwhelming amount of support in the crowd, the Huskies are feeling the allure of the Garden once again.
"We all thought about it and said, 'Man, if we get the chance to go back to Madison Square Garden,'" Daniels said. "That's our second home. We wanted to get here because we know it's close to home. We knew it was going to be crazy and have all our friends that come out. Now we here, now we just have to come out and execute and win the game tomorrow, for our fans."
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