Missouri men's basketball team excited to play at Madison Square Garden

Monday, December 5, 2011 | 9:07 p.m. CST

The Missouri men's basketball team is taking its sparkling new No. 10 ranking to the world's most famous arena.

On Tuesday, Missouri will face Villanova as part of the Jimmy V Classic in New York City. 

The Jimmy V Classic is played in front of a national TV audience at the "Mecca of Basketball" — Madison Square Garden.

"The Garden, obviously, is one of the biggest basketball venues to play in in the world," senior guard Marcus Denmon said. "It's something that we're looking forward to."

The team landed in New York City on Sunday afternoon and has done more than just check out "The Garden" and prepare for Tuesday's game.

Injured senior forward Laurence Bowers tweeted about visiting Ground Zero, and Denmon tweeted that he was headed to check out Rucker Park, a famous outdoor basketball court in Harlem.

Late Sunday night, senior Jarrett Sutton tweeted, "Passing by Time Square. This city really doesn't sleep."

Most of Michael Dixon's and Kim English's tweets were full of exclamation points.

"I know there's a lot of excitement," Missouri coach Frank Haith said. "None of these guys have been to New York. I've been fortunate enough to play in the building, and it is a neat place."

One Tiger who has been to Madison Square Garden is sophomore transfer Danny Feldmann, who toured the arena last year during his freshman season playing basketball at Columbia University. But even Feldman never made it to a game there.

"I wanted to, but never had the time," Feldmann said.

Feldmann, who is from Jefferson City and played at Helias High School, will miss out on this game as well because transfers do not travel with the team.

But some within the program were smart enough to seek his advice before they left.

"One of the coaches asked about good pizza places," Feldmann said. "I told him Koronet Pizza on 110th and Broadway."

After all of the fun and touring on Sunday and Monday, the Tigers have a big game to play Tuesday night.

"It's important for our program," Haith said. "We want to win championships here, and when you play on a national scene you can put that Mizzou brand out there."

Tuesday marks the first time the Tigers have been part of the Jimmy V Classic, an annual event named after former North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano, who died from bone cancer in 1993. He is known for his "Don't Give Up ... Don't Ever Give Up" speech at the first ever ESPY awards that year.

The event is part of ESPN's Jimmy V Week, when ESPN raises money for The V Foundation for cancer research.

The Tigers (7-0) will play Villanova (5-2) in the first game of the event. Washington and Marquette will play in the second game.

"They're very similar to us," Haith said about Villanova. "They play a small lineup at times and four guards. It should be an interesting matchup."

Villanova made the 2009 NCAA Final Four playing a four-guard system similar to the one Frank Haith has been using this season. Haith said Villanova was one of the schools he looked at when crafting the system.

With a win on Tuesday, Missouri would be 8-0 for the first time since 2006.

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