by Phil Jacobs
OK, so the NCAA had its basketball tournaments, and that's all done and over with.
Now the real tournament starts. That's correct. The University of Maryland Hillel-hosted National Hillel Basketball Tournament to determine the best Jewish college basketball team in the nation.
The tournament, which will take place from April 20-22, will feature 22 men's and seven women's teams from 18 college campuses throughout North America.
The tournament proceeds will benefit Jewish life at the participating colleges, as well as a selected basketball-oriented charity.
University of Maryland Hillel is expecting more than 300 players, and about 1,000 students to be involved. The NCAA kicks off its b-ball tournament with "Selection Sunday"; the Hillel tournament gets started with Shabbat services and dinner for over 500.
First-round action begins Saturday evening and will continue into Sunday at the University of Maryland's Reckord Armory and Ritchie Coliseum. Each team will play in three preliminary games and then move into the single-elimination tournament bracket.
"I'm proud of the student leaders, from Maryland Hillel and around the country, who are spearheading this extraordinary event which brings together Jewish students from across the country," said Maryland Hillel's executive director Rabbi Ari Israel. "Putting aside school loyalties and their competitive nature, the students are gathering to positively celebrate our common heritage and communal link in a social celebratory experience."
The schools include Baruch College, Brandeis University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Goucher College, University of Maryland, New York University, Queens College, Rutgers University, University of Buffalo, University of Miami, University of Pennsylvania, University of Wisconsin, Washington University in St. Louis, Yeshiva University, Barnard College and Stern College for Women.
No, there's no bracketology. Just going to be a great time for college students who like to play and watch hoops. The tournament has been sponsored by New York-area philanthropists Jonathan and Dina Leader.