Majerle, GCU will feel at home in St. John’s game
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Travis Neely
GCU News Bureau
It’s a fact of life in college basketball: Pay attention to your RPI, or you might be saying RIP to your season.
The Rating Percentage Index, or RPI, is part of the reason why Grand Canyon University will play St. John’s on Dec. 5 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in the Valley of the Sun Shootout. The opener of the nationally televised doubleheader will pair Arizona and Texas A&M.
It’s the first opportunity for GCU Coach Dan Majerle to lead the Lopes into the arena where he spent time as a Phoenix Suns player, assistant coach and broadcaster, but it almost certainly won’t be the last. While GCU’s preference is to have as many games as possible in the one-of-a-kind atmosphere of its own arena, the challenge is getting big-name teams to agree to it.
And that all goes back to the RPI, which plays a big role in determining where teams get seeded in the NCAA Tournament. Losing to a team with a lower RPI can mean the difference between a good seeding and location on the first weekend as opposed to a tougher matchup and a longer trip.
An occasional game at Talking Stick could be an attractive solution to enticing attractive opponents, and Majerle – appearing at a press conference Wednesday at the downtown Phoenix arena to publicize the event – is open to the idea of making it an annual venture.
“I would love to,” he said. “Every coach that I’ve talked to, they don’t want to play us on our campus. Let’s see if we can get Talking Stick and play here in Phoenix. It’s easier for them to say that we won’t be on campus, that we’ll be on a neutral site.”
But Majerle also noted that the Havocs, GCU’s student cheer section, will be at Talking Stick in force for the St. John’s game, and that’s another way this works well for the Lopes. It’s only 10 miles away.
“When I say that we have the best student section in the country, I mean it,” Majerle said. “We really do. It’s unbelievable. We travel great. Our home-court advantage is unbelievable. I’m sure we’ll fill this place, as much as we can, with purple. The pride that GCU has and what we want to become is really special, and I’m lucky to be a part of it.”
Majerle was joined at the press conference by Arizona coach Sean Miller, who said he’s not opposed to playing the Lopes in Phoenix – maybe even at GCU Arena. The teams met last December in Tucson, a hard-fought game won by Arizona 64-54, and both coaches found it to be a good experience.
“We want to play them, and the reason we want to play Grand Canyon, as I said last year, is that it’s a great game for us because they have a quality team,” Miller said. “If you are able to beat them, it’s a meaningful win. …
“We’ll continue to talk. It’s not something I’m just saying because we’re together today. Dan knows this – we respect them a great deal. What they’ve done speaks for itself. We played them a year ago, and if that eventually turns into a home-and-home, so be it.”
Majerle, while kiddingly urging Miller to have his team get a first-hand look at the GCU Arena atmosphere by playing a game there, said he would love to face the Wildcats every year in Tucson if that’s what winds up happening.
“To be Top 25, you have to play Top 25 competition,” Majerle said. “… Our guys had the ability to do that, to go down to Tucson and see how those guys act and how hard they play and how talented they are and how well-coached they are. That only makes us a lot better.”
Another reason that these two universities are a natural pairing is that both are contracted with Nike, and there’s no doubt that they’d fill Talking Stick if they decided to play there. But facing St. John’s, coached by former NBA star Chris Mullin, is a good first step – especially for Majerle.
“I played here, I announced here, I coached here, but to bring Grand Canyon here and to play on this floor, it’s going to be a lot of fun, especially playing against a guy like Chris Mullin, who I’ve had a lot of great rivalries with,” Majerle said.
The playing part evokes particularly good memories, but Majerle is more focused on his players creating memories of their own.
“It’ll be fun for them to play in an NBA arena,” he said. “All those guys want to be pros. To be able to play where the Phoenix Suns play, it will be special for them.”
Chances are, it won’t be the last time.
Tickets: They range from $30 to $300 (courtside seating), not including applicable service charges and taxes, and go on sale online at 10 a.m. Friday, July 28 at www.talkingstickresortarena.com. Tickets also may be purchased by phone at 800-745-3000 or by visiting the arena box office during regular business hours (10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday). Complete event information can be found at www.valleyofthesunshootout.com or on Twitter at @ShootoutInPHX. For group sales or sponsorship opportunities, contact bd Global at 859-951-6141.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.