The Ultimate Foodie's Guide To College Hoops: Preseason Edition
Man cannot survive on concession stand food alone. Nor should he. As college basketball season tips off next week, those planning to follow their teams home and away should put down the soggy hot dogs and stale nachos and instead elect to embark on a gustatory adventure.
It's a big country with a lot of gyms. You'll need a full stomach to fully appreciate them all. Follow my advice, and you'll never cheer hungry.
The Wolfpack usually gets the shaft in lists like this in favor of Research Triangle rivals North Carolina and Duke, but not this year. Mark Gottfried's team has point guard Lorenzo Brown, forward C.J. Leslie and a chance to be the best team in the Triangle this season. NC State shares PNC Arena with the Carolina Hurricanes of the NHL, so the Wolfpack may not have to do much sharing this season. Meanwhile, you won't want to share any of the whole hog chopped barbecue covered in a tangy vinegar-based sauce from
The Carrier Dome has its own charms -- despite its name, air conditioning isn't one, but hey, Syracuse in winter -- and the noise created by Syracuse fans during a big game is far louder than it should be considering the basketball setup doesn't use the entire building. They love their basketball in Syracuse, but they also love their barbecue. While I haven't had the pleasure of a personal visit, the legions of Syracuse grads in the sports media have unanimously sung the praises of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. No other barbecue joint that far north has earned such lavish praise, but great barbecue doesn't have to come from Memphis or Kansas City or Texas or the Carolinas. It just has to be cooked low and slow.
Phog Allen Fieldhouse isn't the only iconic spot in Lawrence. After spending a game working up a hunger and a thirst screaming Rock Chalk Jayhawk, students -- and those who wish they still were -- can walk to The Wagon Wheel (also known as just The Wheel). Want to see how much the clientele at The Wheel cares about its college hoops? Just check this video after Kansas beat Ohio State to advance to the national title game.
Georgetown plays most home games downtown in the Verizon Center, but do your pregaming on Pennsylvania Avenue a few blocks from the White House. Walk into
How Memphis coach Josh Pastner manages to keep his players in such good shape in Barbecue Mecca is beyond me. The tourists are heading to
The Texas basketball team may underachieve annually, but pitmaster Aaron Franklin of
If you're going to a Big 5 game, you need to see it the way the good lord intended -- at The Palestra. The venerable old gym on the Penn campus (capacity: 8,722) got its name in 1927 from Greek professor William Bates. Bates spent his life studying the ancient Greeks, who called the rectangular athletic venue attached to the gymnasium a Palestra. If you plan on attending Penn-Villanova on Dec. 8 or Penn-St. Joseph's on Jan. 19, you can also sample the Big 2 of Philly Cheese Steaks. Pat's King of Steaks and Geno's Steaks are located 184 feet apart and serve fairly similar products, but people swear by one or the other in a rivalry that has been portrayed as more fierce than the recruiting fights between Big 5 schools. The cheese steak rivalry has been great for business, but it apparently
A game at Rupp Arena needs no accompaniment. The place packs in 23,000 of the most passionate fans in college basketball, and when the Wildcats go on a run, it sounds as if the roof might pop off. All that yelling can make a person hungry, though. For something unexpected, head to
I've never understood how the crowds at the Kohl Center are so lively. When I go to Madison, I usually need a nap after a meal designed to fortify the locals against the cold. When I went to Mickies Dairy Bar earlier this year, students were doing shots of maple syrup while waiting for Scramblers. What's a Scrambler? It's your choice of meat (mine was bacon, of course) mixed with eggs, served atop a bed of hash browns and smothered in gravy. It covers one large plate and could feed one small village. If you're a glutton like me, you'll also order a chocolate shake -- which could be a meal unto itself. Since you'll skip lunch, have a burger and cheese curds for dinner at
Point guard Trey Burke is back for his sophomore season, and expectations are high in Ann Arbor. But while visiting the Wolverines, you have a chance to decide
For a 12,000-seat arena at a football school, the O'Connell Center gets quite loud. The Gators wisely kept the student section along one side of the court instead of shifting the kids to the baseline, and that decision pays off with a semi-intimidating atmosphere -- during SEC play. Come while Florida's football team is still trying to reach the SEC championship game, and the energy flags. The energy is always up at
The Cardinals play in the opulent splendor of the somewhat appetizingly named KFC Yum! Center. But a few miles away, in the basement of someone's house, is a dining experience that will steady the nerves of those fans either coming down from the dizzying highs or up from the horrifying lows of watching Peyton Siva play the point.
Considering it houses one of the nation's premier basketball programs, the Dean Smith Center isn't the greatest venue. It's huge and relatively antiseptic. But when that many people are willing to pay boatloads of money to watch basketball games, you build an arena to accommodate them. Fortunately, those looking for ambience can find it at
A game at Assembly Hall when the Hoosiers are good -- and they're very, very good this year -- is reason enough to visit Bloomington, but I would get in big trouble with former Big Ten Network sparring partner Gerry Dinardo if I didn't recommend
Value City Arena is a relatively charmless building, though Aaron Craft and the Buckeyes play a very charming brand of basketball. Fortunately, Columbus has plenty of local flavor elsewhere. I made a pledge in 2005 -- after eating a three-pound hamburger to win a free T-shirt and free dessert (which I also ate) -- that I wouldn't eat more giant burgers, but I plan to break that pledge at
The cruelest thing you can do to me is taunt me with famous barbecue I have yet to taste. So if you're in town to watch the Billikens play, you can torture me by sending me photos of the ribs from
When the Tigers got upset by a No. 15 seed in last year's NCAA tournament, I wondered if they had lost just to get back to Columbia to eat more of the perfect little hamburgers at Booches Billiard Hall. That probably wasn't the case, but I was only a few weeks out from my first visit to Booches, a hole in the wall that serves diminutive burgers so delicious that, left unchecked, I could probably eat about 20. The cravings still hadn't subsided at that point. So if that had been the reason for the loss, I would have understood completely.
The Fighting Irish will begin their second season at Purcell Pavilion, but they aren't the only ones in the metro South Bend area enjoying new digs.
Did Bluejays forward Doug McDermott hang 25 and 12 on your team? Don't despair. You're not alone. The good news is you can sop up your sorrows with the juice from the Whiskey Filet at
The Bruins will unveil the renovated Pauley Pavilion -- which recently received a $136 million facelift -- this season, and they should celebrate their updated digs with a lot of wins if the NCAA eventually clears star recruits Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad to play. Bruins fans looking to center themselves while waiting for the NCAA to finish investigating should head north to Tarzana for breakfast at Vip's Café. That was John Wooden's spot. Be quick, but don't hurry to
After watching a game at intentionally old-fashioned Cameron Indoor Stadium and having Cameron Crazies correct the game story while looking over writers' shoulders, the scribes on the college basketball beat like to indulge in the finer things. Jeff Goodman, one of the excellent college basketball writers at CBSSports.com, recommends
In honor of
The Red Storm plays its Big East home games in Madison Square Garden, but a bevy of quality teams will pass through for tourneys during November. Only a few minutes' walk from the World's Most Famous Arena is some of the world's best fried chicken. Hill Country Chicken is at the corner of 25th and Broadway, but the staff cooks like it should be slinging chicken and sides on the side of a country road in Mississippi. Order your chicken Mama Els style, and make sure to get the mashed potatoes, which are covered in cheese and fresh-cut French fries. Also, sample one of the mini, single-serve pies. Whiskey buttermilk and Maker's Mark bourbon pecan are my favorites. But don't limit your pie consumption to a circular, solid state. If you ask, they'll cut you a slice of cheddar-crust apple pie, chuck it in the blender with some milk and vanilla ice cream, hit frappe and then serve you heaven in a cup.
Sure, point guard Mark Lyons might have graduated from Xavier and transferred to play his final season in Tucson because he loves Wildcats coach Sean Miller, who coached Lyons back in Cincinnati. But isn't it also possible that Lyons saw the "Man vs. Food" segment on the bacon-wrapped Sonoran Dogs at
Tom Izzo's teams don't do anything fancy over at the Breslin Center. They just outwork, outhustle and out-bang their opponents into submission.