By Joey Yashinsky
Be it Wimbledon, the Olympics, or any other major worldwide sporting event, male and female athletes often compete in the same venue. Sure, they aren’t competing against one another; but they share the same field, court, and big viewing audience.
The Horizon League took that same step with its basketball tournaments in 2017. Men’s and women’s players alike have been thrilled with the ‘everybody under one roof’ setup.
“It’s been really cool,” said Milwaukee do-it-all guard, Brock Stull. He is sitting courtside with his fellow Panther teammates rooting on the Milwaukee women’s squad in a quarterfinal. “We all think of ourselves as one big family. Their games are honestly a little less stressful than ours. We could take a couple pointers from them.”
The back-to-back victories by Stull’s Milwaukee team, which entered as the tournament’s 10th seed, has become a major storyline of the event. Starting forward Brett Prahl credits part of that success to the Panther women being in Detroit, too.
“We definitely support each other throughout the season,” said Prahl. “We go to a lot of their games, they come to a lot of ours. It helps us on the court when we look out and see them in the crowd cheering us on.”
By having both groups at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, it’s allowed fans to enjoy tournament basketball from morning until night. Four tense, do-or-die affairs one right after the other. It’s a hoops fan’s paradise.
“Oh, I love it,” said Jamie Seidl, a Green Bay native that has made his way down to Detroit for Motor City Madness. In fact, it’s the 28th consecutive year seeing he’ll be watching his Phoenix in conference tournament action. “Now if your teams are on a run, both men and women, you don’t have to go anywhere. Plus, our women’s team has such a big following, so it’ll bring more people here for our men’s games, too. For us, it is great having everything in the same venue.”
The difference in excitement, having all 20 Horizon League teams in one city, has been noticeable for the student-athletes.
“It’s been so exciting. The minute you get here, you feel a vibe,” said Detroit Mercy senior and all-league performer, Rosanna Reynolds. “It’s really high energy, especially for us getting to represent our home city.”
The dual-tournament setup has generated rave reviews from some of the off-court contributors, too.
“I think it’s been such a cool experience for everyone,” said Haley Francuch, a junior cheerleader from Oakland. “It’s awesome that the women are getting this opportunity to play at the Joe, too. Our team looks forward to this all year long.”
In 2017, Motor City Madness has had double the teams, double the games, and double the thrills. It’s a crowd-pleasing arrangement that will be around in the Horizon League for many years to come.