Plenty of college hoops for us to see

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When the ball dropped at Times Square, it meant a couple of things.

One, the Carnegie Deli in Manhattan is gone forever. Two, it's time for college basketball to kick into high gear.

We in the Berkshires are particularly fortunate, because we can travel about two hours (at most) one way to see the best of college basketball. So if Santa put a few extra dollars in your stocking, going to college basketball games would be an easy way to get a treat from that gift.

But perhaps the best basketball around the region is free. You can see top-caliber hoops at the Chandler Gym on the Williams College campus. That's where the Williams men and women play.

The Eph men, coached by Kevin App, are 10-1 and are coming off a great pre-New Year tournament. Williams won the Mount Union M-Club Tournament by knocking off 15th-ranked Hope and then beating the host school in the championship game.

Williams has a big week ahead, all of it at home.

The Ephs will face SUNY-Oneonta on Tuesday night in a non-league game, and then jump right into the deep end of the pool with NESCAC conference play.

Friday night, the third-ranked Purple and White of Amherst visit for their conference game. Amherst had been No. 1 in the nation until losing to Springfield College in the final game before the holiday break. Williams, subsequently, beat Springfield 87-69 before the holiday break.

Then on Sunday, Trinity comes a-calling.

Williams went into this week as the No. 37 team in the D3hoops.com Top 25. All you have to do to figure that out is count the other teams that received votes.

Pat Manning's Williams women come back from Arizona, where the 9-2 Ephs went 2-0 in the Arizona Shootout, beating Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Lake Forest.

It is out of the proverbial frying pan and into the fire for Williams, because after a home game with Castleton State on Wednesday, the Ephs have to travel to the Pioneer Valley for a Friday night game against No. 2 Amherst.

The MCLA men and women jump right into MASCAC play this week. Wednesday, they play Worcester State in the Amsler Campus Center and on Saturday host Westfield in a doubleheader.

Men's coach Derek Shell has his team at 2-8, but the Trailblazers won two of their last three before the break.

Women's coach Loren Stock's team was sitting at 5-5.

If you are ready, able and willing to make a little bit of a drive, there is a lot of college basketball.

Derek Kellogg's UMass basketball team is sitting at an impressive 10-4 mark, but a disappointing 0-1 in Atlantic 10 conference play. The Minutemen were thumped at home on Friday by St. Bonaventure.

The Minutemen only have one home game in their next four, and that'll be on Jan. 11 against an always-tough Dayton squad. Coach Archie Miller's team was dubbed one of the favorites for the A-10 title this year.

An hour to our west sit UAlbany and Siena.

The Great Danes of Will Brown are 8-6 as Albany prepares for America East play. The Danes are at home Monday for their final non-league game against Cornell. Conference play begins on Thursday at UMass-Lowell, where Dalton's Pat Duquette will welcome Brown's team.

Jimmy Patsos' Siena Saints are a disappointing 4-9. They start MAAC play at Niagara on Wednesday. Siena will be at the Times Union center on Saturday against St. Peter's and Jan. 12 against Quinnipiac. The TU Center is only about a 45-minute drive from my house out near Dalton to the parking garage behind the arena. It's an easy trip.

A bit more difficult (time wise) is heading to Hartford to see the UConn men and women.

Next Sunday, the Huskies will be at the XL Center for an AAC game with Central Florida.

Geno Auriemma's UConn women are in Hartford on Wednesday against East Carolina and again on Jan. 10 against South Florida. Neither game should be close, but watching the UConn women play basketball is — to me — a treat.

So there you have an early-January primer on where to go and what to do if you are a college basketball person. Have fun.

Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253, hherman@berkshireeagle.com. On Twitter: @howardherman

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