Thursday, April 2, 2009

Memories of the NCAA Opening Rounds in Boise

Two weekends ago I was back in the original hood to watch a little First Round Hoops action at Taco Bell Arena on the Boise State campus. Here's a shot of the first game featuring Ivy League champs Cornell taking on the Missouri Tigers in what would be their first win in a strong tournament run to finish out a great season.

Our last game on the first was an over-time thriller between 12-seed Wisconsin and 5-seed Florida State. While the game itself was a defensive battle between two enormous teams, what was perhaps more intriguing was the contrast between the two schools and their respective entourages.

Every school that goes 'dancing' brings a posse of up to 80 support folks including basketball and athletic staff, cheerleaders and bands. We saw eight teams in Boise and each University has it's own flavor and culture that they bring during the games.

And no two flavors were more different than Wisconsin and Florida State. On the one hand we had the Big Ten in Wisconsin representing tradition, with cheerleaders in conservative, full-coverage outfits that would have seemed right at home in the 1950s. Their band wore white collared shirts, chinos and red v-neck sweaters.

On the other side, we had Florida State who's band was decked out in track pants and t-shirts and whose cheerleaders wore bikini tops, exposed midriffs and black lycra dance pants. It seemed that almost every time the Wisconsin band tried to start up, after patiently waiting their turn, the FSU band would interrupt them with that Seminole war-chant thing like the Atlanta Braves do too. It was a wild clash of cultures.

For the second round, we sat low down on the court with the families of the Missouri coaches and players. This was a crazy experience and we were swept along in the tide of Mizzou fervor as they fended off a tenacious Marquette team to advance to the Sweet 16. My ears are still ringing.

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