ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Straddling the mighty Mississippi River stands the Gateway Arch signifying St. Louis as fabled "Gateway to the West."
With the city hosting the annual Missouri Valley Conference men's basketball tournament commonly called "Arch Madness" featuring Northern Iowa (UNI) and former Lincoln star 6-foot-10 Shandon "Biggie" Goldman -- the site also becomes "Gateway to the NCAA National men's basketball championship tournament" with the MVC tourney winner gaining an automatic bid.
TOURNEY AT A GLANCE
Conference: Missouri Valley Conference
Sport: NCAA Division I men’s college basketball
Qualifier: Winner gets automatic bid to NCAA men’s basketball championship tournament
Most championships: Creighton (12)
Host city 2019: St. Louis. Mo.
Defending 2018 champion: Loyola (Chicago) Ramblers
Teams in tournament bracket: 10
Local connection: Shandon “Biggie” Goldman, 2014 Lincoln graduate, plays for Northern Iowa
2019 MVC TOURNEY SCORES
No. 9 Valparasio 77, No. 8 Indiana State 55
No. 7 Illinois State 65, No. 10 Evansville 60
Quarterfinal — No. 1 Loyola, Ill. 67, No. 9 Valparasio 54
Quarterfinal — No. 5 Bradley 61, No. 4 Missouri State 58
Quarterfinal — No. 2 Drake 78, No. 7 Illinois State 62
Quarterfinal — No. 6 Northern Iowa 61, No. 3 Southern Illinois 58
Semifinal — No. 5 Bradley 53, No. 1 Loyola, Ill. 51
Semifinal — No. 6 Northern Iowa 60, No. 2 Drake 58
Championship — No. 5 Bradley 57, No. 6 Northern Iowa 54
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE 2019 STANDINGS
- Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (19-12, 12-6)
- Drake Bulldogs (23-8, 12-6)
- Southern Illinois Salukis (17-14, 10-8)
- Missouri State Bears (18-15, 10-8)
- Bradley Braves (17-14, 9-9)
- Northern Iowa Panthers (14-17, 9-9)
- Illinois State Redbirds (16-15, 9-9)
- Indiana State Sycamores (15-15, 7-11)
- Valparaiso Crusaders (14-17, 7-11)
- Evansville Purple Aces (11-20, 5-13)
With "Arch Madness" preceding "March Madness," as the NCAA tourney is called, an opportunity to cheer for Shandon and UNI, prompted the Goldman family to converge on St. Louis last weekend.
Oldest daughter, RaShelle, currently attending Drake University, another MVC school, in Des Moines, Iowa, joined the party along with youngest daughter, Jessica, a Lincoln senior committed to NAIA women's basketball next fall with John Brown University, of Siloam Springs, traveling with her parents.
Greg and Alicia Goldman and their children represent genuine basketball fans in the purest sense of ascertaining a true definition of the term. Their appreciation for the sport, game knowledge, and enthusiasm goes way beyond that of an average fan.
The quality of the experience was not diminished by the fact that Shandon, who has battled injuries as part of the UNI roster this season, didn't get into Friday's game, a 61-58 nail-biter won by the sixth-seeded Panthers over No. 3 seed Southern Illinois nor Saturday's semifinal barn-burner won on a coast-to-coast layup, 60-58, over No. 2 Drake. Those wins propelled the Panthers into Sunday's championship against No. 5 Bradley with a ticket to the big dance on the line. Northern Iowa came up short losing 57-54 in the title game.
"Unbelievable atmosphere," Greg Goldman said describing Friday's intense playoff basketball environment inside the Enterprise Center, which according to its website seats 19,150 for St. Louis Blues NHL hockey and almost 22,000 for basketball and concerts.
Have Goldman on team and family will travel.
Greg and Alicia have journeyed far and near even crossing an ocean to watch one of their kids play basketball beginning with RaShelle's state tournament trips on teams coached by Lincoln athletic director Deon Birkes that went 25-5 winning district and regional tournaments in 2010 and as an underdog making a run in 2012 that ended with a narrow 46-43 loss to Rivercrest on Feb. 28, 2012.
RaShelle earned a basketball scholarship to the University of the Ozarks, at Clarksville; and the family followed her career in NCAA Division III women's basketball.
This past November the couple flew to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands to watch Shandon and UNI compete in the Paradise Jam tournament -- a trip Greg marked on his calendar since first checking out the UNI 2018-2019 schedule shortly after Shandon committed to play men's basketball for the Panthers.
The couple diligently saved money to make the trip, rewarding themselves with a Caribbean vacation. Basketball provided incentive to go and they thoroughly enjoyed the excursion.
Their most recent venture prior to "Arch Madness" was a 337-mile jaunt spanning the east-west length of Arkansas to watch Jessica and Lincoln's Lady Wolves compete at the State 3A girls basketball tournament hosted by Osceola.
The Goldman's reside on the Oklahoma border in Evansville while Osceola High School lays about three miles east of Arkansas' border with Tennesee. One can't go much farther either direction without leaving Arkansas.
This summer UNI plans to take the men's basketball team to play in Sicily and Spain.
"We're not going," Greg Goldman said answering an unvoiced question.
Not that he didn't think about it.
When Lincoln hosted the 2014 4A North Regional, which according to Birkes netted the Arkansas Activities Association more than $25,000, fans crammed into Wolfpack Arena for a Saturday, March 1 championship game between Lincoln and 4A-4 champion Maumelle (22-8). The contest went into overtime before Maumelle edged the Wolves, 73-72.
Jessica recalls watching Shandon drill timely threes that helped Lincoln stay ahead for much of the game.
"It was crazy. I just remember. Even now I compare back to that Regional game against Maumelle. It was completely packed. People were standing up in the top and so I always compare things," Jessica said. "Even in the (2019 girls basketball) state tournament I was like, 'this even isn't as busy as it was that game.' So that was a crazy atmosphere. Everyone was cheering and it was real loud and I still think back to that game a lot. I still don't think we had a game that was that packed as that Regional game for Biggie."
Lincoln fans worked themselves into a frenzy, eager to see Shandon get off one of his trademark high-arcing 3-point shots. In a moment of unbridled basketball passion exuberance might tend to utter Vanilla Ice lyrics flavored with legendary ESPN basketball announcer Dick Vitale's unique delivery, "Ice, ice, baby!" or maybe, "Arc, arc, baby!"
Smooth as vanilla, another Goldman trifecta goes down -- satisfying basketball fans dancing to their heart's content.
Sports on 03/13/2019
Print Headline: Arch Madness