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Dancing in sneakers

On Sunday the brackets for the 2023 NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournament were announced. This year’s tournament will have the Gonzaga men and women and the Pac 12 women’s tournament champion WSU Cougars in the mix. I have had the opportunity to see a couple of men’s regionals and one women’s regional final and one NCAA men’s championship game.

For all of the years that I have watched the tournament on TV it is really special to get to watch the games live. The NCAA does try to make the event special and the regional games that I’ve attended in Spokane were really exceptional.

One year there were teams from Utah State, New Mexico State and Texas A&M playing. All three of these teams’ mascots were Aggies. I don’t believe that any other Aggie teams were in the NCAA tournament. Not sure if they thought it would be easier to deal with these ag schools in Spokane or what the reasoning was or if it was just coincidence. I sometimes think the committee has a theme to work with and if you see a matchup the looks interesting then someone has a sense of humor or knows a bit of history.

Some of the great things about the tournament are the fans, bands and cheerleaders and of course the mascots. When there is a time out one of the bands will play and usually the cheerleaders will do their routines to get the crowd excited. These bands are really good. So it isn’t just basketball at this tournament. Some of the mascots are legendary. A few years back Michigan State was there and Sparty was roaming and he was certainly a fan favorite. I couldn’t even come close to the number of people that had their picture taken with the big green Spartan but it was a lot.

When the Duke women were in town the Blue Devil mascot was also roaming. I didn’t see that many people that wanted their picture taken with him because honestly he looks a bit strange live and up close. I might have thought someone would call a priest to perform and exorcism to get that devil removed from the arena but that didn’t happen either.

One year the St. Joseph’s Hawks were in Spokane and their mascot the Hawk waved his arms up and down like he was exercising. Try doing that for ten minutes let alone a whole game. It is a tradition and I’m sure whoever is in that costume is in pretty good shape.

Going to the regional games is really great and you get to see some great coaches that have had some pretty good success over the years. It is fun watching what they do during a game and they have their own ways of making sure the referees know that they need to be on their toes and not miss any of the action unless of course their guy commits a foul.

I have been to a lot of State B tournaments and you see a lot of the same fans each year which is great but when you go to a NCAA tournament you see people from across the country from the east coast, Midwest, south and west. Fans wear their team’s colors and they are very proud fans. When you travel a thousand miles or so you really want your team to come out on top. But they also know that they can be upset and they usually know where the nearest watering hole is to drown their sorrows.

If you want to walk around at halftime just realize that the concourse is packed with people and that exercise walk will not be easy to maneuver. And forget about using the restroom. There is usually a line to get in there. That is why I use the TV timeout to take care of business. I was amazed at how many people were glued to their seats while I was the lone wolf in the men’s facility. As I walked back to my seat there was still a good 30 seconds before the buzzer went off to start the game again. My TV timeout was spent wisely I think.

I’m not sure when the NCAA regional will return to Spokane. The 2020 men’s regional was canceled about a week after the B tournament concluded. But when it returns I recommend trying to get tickets to see at least one day of tournament action. It is an awesome experience and a great way to go dancing in sneakers.

— Dale Anderson is a sports columnist from Ritzville. To contact him, email [email protected].


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