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The Island of Enchantment

For the second straight year, I highlighted the third week of February on my calendar as one of the marquee weeks on the college circuit. Why wouldnt I enjoy four days in Puerto Rico watching some of the best teams in the country? This past week was even better than last year for the simple fact the womens tournament was moved to the same week as the men. From my perspective, this is a win-win situation. One trip, two events, and a whole lot of fun.
For more than a decade, many schools have been making the pilgrimage to the warm tropical climate Puerto Rico has to offer. The man with the plan is Devon Brouse, the mens and womens coach at Purdue University. While at North Carolina, Brouse wanted to come up with something big and different. With many teams facing the prospects of cold winters without much time to practice, a journey south seemed like the way to go.
There are a handful of teams that have been fortune to participate in every one of the Puerto Rico events. For them, getting a chance to play in 80 degree temperatures in February, and having the beach and ocean at your disposal after every round is a real treat. Each team realizes that if they miss a year there are dozens of teams ready to take their spot in the field.
The women have gotten into the mix in recent years, and the feedback has been nothing but positive. I am always intrigued by mens and womens programs like Minnesota or Penn State, who have been sitting in single digit temperatures and snow up to their knees for the better part of three months. Get them to Puerto Rico and watch the smiles on their faces and the sunscreen on their pale skin.
Make no mistake about it, these schools all want to leave the island with the championship, but this is one event, where the atmosphere is just a bit different. A bit more relaxed, with the sights and sounds as intriguing as the final round action.
Although it was just my second year down south, I felt like part of the group. This was never more evident then when I bumped into a couple of people I met there last year. They had nothing to do with the event; they were just there with family as they always do the third week of February. We shot the breeze, and had a great time, which is not hard to do on the island of enchantment.
Email your thoughts to Steve Burkowski