Thursday, March 23, 2017

East Regional Practice Day: Ray Floriani's Photo Essay

NEW YORK -- The sky is a gorgeous blue, as if part of the canvas of an outstanding artist.

The calendar says late March, yet there is a winter-like chill in the air. All this is a backdrop, one that entertains the senses, but still secondary. On this early afternoon, thoughts are directed toward March Madness, specifically the East Regional. Waking up to Madison Square Garden, the host site, quickens the pulse with anticipation.
It is Thursday, and the games will not tip off for another 30 hours. The activity of the day calls for open practices at the Garden. Each team is allotted an hour, followed by media interviews. The public is in attendance, equipped with cell phones to capture the moment on camera.

The teams utilize this time to get familiar with the floor, rims and depth perception as it pertains to perimeter shooting, the latter a strong consideration in the days of the use of the three-point shot. The serious game preparation work is done at another site behind closed doors. Regardless, it is wise to use the open practice time judiciously.

Wisconsin went through the paces with their band in attendance, playing some catchy tunes. Fans clad in red are scattered through the stands, taking in the moment. New York City, the Garden, the Sweet Sixteen, virtually a dream come true. For the four teams here; Wisconsin, Baylor, South Carolina, and Florida, it is the culmination of special seasons and the epitome of that almost age-old saying: Survive and advance.

All four teams have high hopes and aspirations. They have advanced and come a long way and as a unit, each believes they can continue until that first Monday in April. The truth of it all is in a day, they will be pared down to two survivors. For now, the action is a day away, yet the excitement prevalent reminds us of why they call this phenomena March Madness.

Outside Madison Square Garden on a beautiful Thursday in Manhattan:
The first sign visible upon entering the Garden:
Wisconsin's band, already in full tournament mode as they play through the Badgers' practice session:
Wisconsin going through the motions:
A look at the Badger fans in attendance, helping turn MSG into a sea of red:
Wisconsin senior Nigel Hayes with a warm greeting for a fan:
One more of Hayes, chatting with CBS' Jim Spanarkel:
Baylor assistant coach Alvin Brooks III supervises the Bears through practice:
South Carolina head coach Frank Martin, fielding questions in his pregame press conference:
The nerve center of the weekend, the Madison Square Garden media workroom:
Finally, the world-famous NCAA cup checkpoint:

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