The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament commenced with a slate of six games at the St. Pete Times Forum this week.
The University of South Florida can barely draw 5,000 fans to a regular season game, so Tampa isn’t exactly the Mecca of college basketball, but if recent years are an indicator of things to come, that may be changing—at least, as far as the national scene is concerned.
In 2007, Tampa hosted the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Men’s Basketball Tournament. By attendance—the ticket sales—the tournament was a success.
It would have been a much greater success had Duke University not been upset in the first round by North Carolina State and deprived ticket holders of the chance of seeing Duke play The University of North Carolina, which is commonly known as one of the greatest rivalries in sports.
In 2008, Tampa hosted the first and second rounds of the NCAA Men’s Tournament. The weather was great and that particular year provided more first round upsets than any other tournament in its history, three of which happened in Tampa.
The combination of the weather and exciting games made for an exceptional experience at the former Ice Palace.
A few weeks later in 2008, the women got their chance to shine in the NCAA Women’s Final Four. Not only did attendees witness the University of Tennessee’s Lady Volunteers win a record eighth championship, but the other three teams—Stanford, Connecticut and LSU—were all premier women’s basketball teams and gave the fans a run for their money.
In 2009, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) held its Men’s Basketball tournament here in Tampa and again, the crowds came out in support. The University of Florida Gators exited in the second round, deflating some of the air from the local fan’s interest, but the games were still exciting and well attended.
What makes these events special is the attendance. Without crowds, there’s no energy and without energy, they’re just games.
I’ve expounded recently on the problem with the Tampa fan in general, but national events seem to go against that rule and draw great crowds.
An interesting piece of the puzzle is that Tampa does not boast an ACC team nor an SEC team, yet those conference’s tournaments still drew fans.
Men’s basketball in Tampa is pretty much an afterthought so naturally, Women’s is even poorer attended—yet the Women’s Final Four packed the stadium.
I believe this all points to the fact that people love traveling to Tampa.
From my experience, most of the fans in attendance at each one of these events were out-of-towners.
This is a win-win for everyone. Hotels and restaurants get filled and Tampa gets an approving nod as a memorable, beautiful city that is adept at hosting a major event.
I guarantee that if the SEC tournament were held in Tuscaloosa, AL, Knoxville, TN or any of the cities that have SEC schools, only games played by the home crowd would be well attended.
When people see Tampa on the schedule, they see a chance to escape the dreary winter and enjoy the sun.
This year’s NCAA tournament games in Tampa will include teams from Michigan State, UCLA and the University of Kentucky to name a few. The fans from these schools are rabid and travel well, so expect an influx of basketball aficionados.
These fans will speak in a basketball language most Tampans won’t understand, so I will run down some of the basics so you aren’t completely lost in translation when coming in contact with these basketball types.
Here are some of the phrases you will hear:
Bubble Team: A bubble team is a team that’s chances of being selected to play in the tournament were in question.
The way the tournament works, the last four teams to be selected to make the tournament, all bubble teams, have to play each other just to get in.
These teams are called the first four as opposed to the:
Final Four: The Final Four are the semifinalists in the national tournament. Each team will have won their regional bracket.
These brackets are the East, West, Southeast and Southwest.
8-9 game: You will hear plenty of people referring to games by numbers: 8-9 games, 5-12 games.
This refers to the seeding (numbered ranking in a bracket) of a team. For example, University of Kentucky is a No. 4 seed and Princeton is a No. 13 seed, then they will play in 4-13 game.
My bracket: People will endlessly go on about their predictions in the NCAA tournament, whether that be in relation to an office tournament pool or any variety of gentlemanly wagering.
Once someone starts rambling about their bracket and who they “have,” politely nod and move away as inconspicuously as possible.
Once this person has your ear, they won’t stop until they leave or you are dead.
Cinderella: Each year, there is at least one low seeded team that isn’t expected to make it far in the tournament, yet it does.
This is referred to as a Cinderella team.
Sweet Sixteen/Elite Eight: These terms refer to the amount of teams left in the tournament.
The last 16 teams left are called the Sweet Sixteen. The final eight teams are called…well, I think you get it.
One Shining Moment: "One Shining Moment" is a cheesy song that was written by David Barrett after he was inspired by the play of Larry Bird in the 1979 NCAA tournament.
Starting with the 1987 Men’s final, CBS has played this song as a background to a montage of the highlights of the tournament it puts together after each year’s championship game.
When someone refers to being in “One Shining Moment,” this is what they mean.
Enjoy the tournament.