Joe Louis Arena to play host to conference tourney with local flavor


For the second year in a row, metro Detroit college basketball fans have an opportunity to see teams from the Horizon League battle for a chance to earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

The Horizon League Little Caesars 2017 Basketball Championships, also known as “Motor City Madness,” takes place March 3-7 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

The University of Detroit Mercy and Oakland University are the two Michigan-based schools that will be represented at the championships.

Horizon League Basketball 2017This is the second year of a five-year agreement between Olympia Entertainment and the Horizon League. Following this year, the next three Horizon League tournaments are set to take place at Little Caesars Arena, the future home of the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons.

Last year, according to Cam Fuller, the senior director and tournament manager for Motor City Madness, the tournament drew just under 21,000 fans, which he said was the seventh-best per-session average among non-FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) conferences.

From Fuller’s perspective, Detroit is a “great city” to have the championships take place.

“I think the city of Detroit has had tremendous success hosting big events, whether it’s the Super Bowl, the Final Four (or) the Ryder Cup,” Fuller said. “The support we received in our first year of Motor City Madness, from the community, from Olympia Entertainment, the Detroit Sports Commission, was tremendous. … We’re really excited to build upon the foundation that was laid last year for many years to come.”

With the women’s tournament also being included this year, there could be even more fans packing into JLA.

Between the men’s and women’s tournaments, respectively, there will be 18 games played over the course of five days and nights, with each of them airing on the ESPN family of networks.

Prior to joining the Horizon League in 2013, Oakland was part of the Summit League and had to travel to South Dakota to take part in its league tournament.

With approximately 100,000 Oakland graduates, the school’s athletic director, Jeff Konya, thinks that the location of the championships puts the Golden Grizzlies in a strong position to be well-represented.

“I believe 70 to 80 percent (of graduates) live in the metro Detroit area,” Konya said. “That they have the proximity to get behind the black and gold is an awesome opportunity, and is very special.”

Robert C. Vowels Jr., who is the director of athletics at UDM, also likes the idea of having the tournaments close to home.

“Extremely special,” Vowels said. “We’re just like 9 miles away. That’s huge for us, and then Oakland too. (With) the two schools here, it makes for an exciting possibility of fans coming out. Last year, we saw fans that we had not seen in quite a while come out to support the tournament and Detroit Mercy.”

The proximity to UDM’s campus isn’t the only reason Vowels likes Detroit as a neutral site location.

“There’s a lot to do in Detroit, in and outside of the tournament itself, so when fans come to town, when the games aren’t playing, they (have) other things to do,” Vowels said. “I think it adds to the excitement of postseason play.”

While Konya said that having the championships at a neutral site, as opposed to having the highest seed play host, has some detractors, from his perspective it makes sense.

He thinks it makes for a better student-athlete experience, helps to centralize the media and allows for people to plan ahead.

“And for us to do it with the rebirth in Detroit, with closing out the final season at the Joe, moving into Little Caesars Arena for the balance of the contract the next three years, it’s (going to) be tremendous,” Konya said.

Single-session tickets, which get fans into all the men’s and women’s games on a given date, can be purchased for as low as $15. All-session tickets, which allow fans access to every game during the entire course of both tournaments, are as low as $45.

Tickets can be purchased at the JLA box office, campus box offices or by calling (313) 471-7575.

For more information, including seeding formats and game schedules, visit

Local connection
Each of the conference’s 10 schools will descend on Joe Louis Arena for the Horizon League Basketball Championships, with both the men’s and women’s teams competing on the hardwood for the last time in the historic venue.

The institutions hail from six states, with nearby members the University of Detroit Mercy and Oakland University, and those farther away including the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and Northern Kentucky University.

Local products from high schools in the C & G Newspapers coverage area include:

Men’s basketball
• Alek Frascone, Oakland (Utica Eisenhower)

Women’s basketball
• Haleigh Ristovski, Detroit Mercy (Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett)
• Lola Ristovski, Detroit Mercy (University Liggett)
• Cortney Williams, Detroit Mercy (Southfield High)
• Taylor Jones, Oakland (Farmington Hills Mercy)
• Hannah Little, Oakland (Auburn Hills Avondale)
• Jessica Rotzoll, Oakland (University Liggett)


View the original story here on C & G Newspapers.


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