BROOKLYN, NY - The NCAA Tournament is a special time, straight through the rounds and brackets, right up until the conclusion on that final Monday. One of the truly special moments is the day(s) of the opening round. Everyone is starting out with their dreams and aspirations.
This past weekend, the first round converged on Brooklyn. Barclays Center hosted two days of action, ultimately sending two teams to the Sweet 16. The opening round was Friday. The first day gives us four games, from a little past ‘high noon’ to the stroke of midnight. Fans are treated to a veritable smorgasbord of basketball. Even the devout fan following his own team, takes in the other action with more than simple casual interest.
Different teams from various regions and conference affiliations displaying diverse styles of play. This all goes into the equation. Interestingly, these varying styles and close games are two things fans love, yet can drive coaches crazy.
March Madness also brings its sadness. No, it is not your bracket, that by day two is rendered to the bottom of the bird cage. Rather, it is saying goodbye to the senior players whose careers have ended with team elimination from the ‘Dance.’ It happened to Temple coach Fran Dunphy after a tough loss to Iowa on Friday. For the fans, it happened on Sunday. Thomas Walkup, a player the Barclays crowd adored in Stephen F. Austin’s upset of West Virginia, saw his career end less than 48 hours later.
Madness brings sadness, but all part of the game. The varied emotions fuel the fan’s passion. Sights and sounds could be worthy of much more mention, from the fans in team shirts on the subway, the vendors in and out of the venue hawking NCAA products, bands, cheerleaders, dance teams, all adding to the pageantry of the game.
Yes, that first day is truly a spectacle to take in, something allowing those roughly 12 hours to fly.
Outside Barclays Center before a busy day of basketball:
A panoramic view of Barclays Center:
Even the author has to partake in March Madness. Here is Ray with some of the University of Michigan cheerleaders:
The world-famous NCAA cup mandate:
A quiet time at one of the gift stands:
The scoreboard hints at the type of game Temple and Iowa contested:
Temple's Fran Dunphy graciously greets the media after a real heartbreaker:
Assistant coach Billy Hahn and head coach Bob Huggins keep a keen eye on their West Virginia team during pregame warmups:
The familiar destination on the No. 2 or 3 train: