Guys in my house road-tripped to the ECC tourney – in Baltimore, if I remember correctly. It was not the same, even by the time I left. The end of the ECC certainly had an impact; felt like we were in no-man’s-land for a while there. But the hoops definitely dropped off too, crashing soon thereafter.
I went to that ECC tourney at Towson on a weekend in 1991, too, beating Lafayette on a buzzer-beater and beating Bucknell (I think) resoundingly in the next round. Then I convinced a vanload of friends to go to the championship game on a Wednesday, perhaps skipping a few classes to do so, against Towson. Good times.
Two years later I went up to Christl arena to watch Lehigh lose in the first round to Navy. Not quite the same level of excitement. I think a huge part of the problem were the early PIG games. In 1992 Fordham won the PL and was rewarded by being sent on the road to St. Francis (PA) a few days later. It was a crappy way to end a season, and it seemed like the PL was going to be the last team in most years, without hoops scholarships.
Schollies changed everything. They set up Bucknell’s and Lehigh’s first-round shockers and have given the whole league a huge competitive boost. PL schools are no longer easy wins across the board. Holy Cross is a middle-of-the-pack team but beat Harvard.