Madison Square Garden providing hallowed backdrop for NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 combatants

Madison Square Garden
A general view of Kansas State practice at Madison Square Garden during the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.
amNewYork/Christian Arnold

NEW YORK — Madison Square Garden was a building that Kansas State guard Tykei Greene dreamed of playing in as a kid.

Florida Atlantic University guard Nick Boyd grew up watching the Big East Tournament at MSG.

Legendary Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has had plenty of memorable moments himself at the World’s Most Famous Arena. 

All three have different memories of one of basketball’s most hallowed grounds, but all are excited to play in such a special building in the Sweet 16 of the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

Thursday will mark the first time in six years (2017) that an NCAA Tournament game has been played at MSG and just the second time since 1961. On Wednesday, Michigan State, Kansas State, FAU, and Tennessee took their first steps on the hardwood at Madison Square Garden.

Michigan State and Kansas State play the first game on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. ET, while Tennessee and FAU go at it at 9:20 p.m.

“Obviously to be on the court, a different feeling, and I’m able to embrace it all,”  said Boyd, whose uncle Fred Hill coached at Rutgers and at Seton Hall. “I really didn’t expect myself to be in this situation or opportunity or have this opportunity. I mean, I grew up watching Seton Hall, Isaiah Whitehead hit the game-winner in the Big East championship. Sterling Gibbs hitting the game-winner at the end at Villanova back in the day, I was there for that.

“Just moments like that that I never really thought I would be a part of. But to be here with these guys and everything like that, it makes it more special, and I feel like we’ve got something to prove, and I’m looking forward to it.”

For Greene, the Garden is a familiar place having been raised in Queens and playing his high school years at Long Island Lutheran. He played his freshman and sophomore seasons in college at Manhattan and his junior season at Stony Brook before transferring to K-State last June. 

The New York native said that he dreamed of playing during March Madness and that the moment was made more special by getting the chance to play so close to home for his family to see. And, of course, getting to do it at Madison Square Garden is the icing on the cake.

“I grew up playing here,” Greene told amNewYork. “So just playing basketball and then coming to the game as a kid, just seeing what the type of environment it is. You know how big those players were on the court. I was like, when I get older I wanted to be just like that. So now that I’m here that pretty much defined it all. Just being a part of something so special, Something so great, so energetic and valuable to what I’ve been doing my whole life.”

But it may have been Izzo who summed it up best when it comes to the aura around The Garden. 

“There is the thrill of playing here. When you talk to — for us, the Steve Smiths and Magic Johnsons, there’s nothing like the mecca. There’s nothing like Madison Square Garden,” The Michigan State coach said. “When we have the opportunity to play here, I always talk about it as a privilege. We get to play in a lot of great places, but it’s not just college basketball, either, as you know. It’s basketball, period. It doesn’t matter what it is. This place is known for it, and you know what, I’m not saying I’ve had a lot of great success here, so this will be a good weekend to change that.”

For more NCAA March Madness coverage, visit amNewYork