Day two of the tournament started off slightly warmer than the abrupt shock I felt at the airport Wednesday morning. Wednesday evening’s game helped to eliminate two teams out of the running for conference champions. Four games were played Thursday, with the Mountaineers being in the last of the four games. Save the best for last, as the saying goes.
Thursday truly started out much like a typical day would. A little work and catch up from home, a trip to the hotel gym. The hotel gym was essentially a Big 12 conference get together as almost every team was represented. Many in the gym were doing the typical side eye glances to see if anyone relatively “famous” to their schools, or the sport, would make there way to the gym. No major sightings to be reported.
Coming to the Sprint Center for day two of games was again a surreal experience, fans from across the conference were near and far; including those who lost Wednesday evening. The Old Gold and Blue was very well-represented over eight hours prior to the Mountaineers started their attempt at the trifecta over the Bears.
Sitting through several games practically court side really gives one the up close and personal experience of the game. Word of advice; watch for errant basketballs flying in the air. It can and will likely happen. You’ll also hear random chants of “Holly!!” from the fans in the stands as beloved Holly Rowe power walks around the perimeter of the court.
After much anticipating, and pretending not to stress or get anxious about the pending game (all West Virginia fans do this even when claiming they don’t), it was finally time for tip off. I took my ‘seat’ under the basket, cameras in tow and was ready.
After a slightly scary slow start for the Mountaineers, the offense finally seemed to get it together and the team was on their way. What they don’t always tell you, meaning they do and you just don’t listen, is when you transition from fan to media cheering and reacting to plays is really not the best thing to do. You’re on camera, national television, and you will get caught. You will have at least one person send you an unflattering person. You will also get caught reacting when your Mountaineers make a great basket. It happens and I have decided to embrace it.
Two twenty minute halves sitting on the court with a camera (and maybe an occasional cell phone) in hand, and the same adrenaline coursing through my veins on that flight to Kansas City was present. There’s an excitement that is again palpable in post-season play, especially when you are eye level with more than a dozen pairs of fancy sneakers. There really is a little bit of magic in West Virginia sports and getting that eye level view, hearing Huggins loud and clear as he ‘discusses’ calls with the refs, it’s an experience to remember.
The Mountaineers allowed fans present, near and far to breathe a collective sigh of relief as the clock ran down late in the evening. One down. Two to go. Now, as Thursday rolls to Friday, four games dwindles down to two, the Mountaineers are another step closer to competing for the conference championship. This fan right here is just happy to have the opportunity to be here, regardless of the outcome. Though who am I kidding? We all want to see the Mountaineers play two more games. Friday evening will be the next test for the team, taking on the two-seed Red Raiders. It’s going to be a heck of a ride.
Let’s go Mountaineers.