By Adrienne Goodson
Game Day One
At last… the NCAA first and second round had arrived in Norfolk. Old Dominion was the hot ticket, and the Ted Constant Center was where it all happened. I saw at once that the ambiance would be magnetic. Energy drinks to taste, TV cameras on the set, and vendors awaited all of the fans who came to participate in the festivities while high school kids hoped to catch a glimpse of their favorite players. The city was excited as March Madness rolled in with the tide and onto the ODU campus. It had a similar feeling to back in the day when we were queens.
The Ted Constant Center was rocking as Big Blue and all of his mascot friends led the way. Georgia and North Carolina filed in to show there support. Virginia’s support were their cheerleaders whereas Santa Barbara had about 50 people cheering their hearts out. The 15,000 capacity arena was packed with loyal fans who came out to showed their gratitude for a season well done and the love was certainly felt.
There was so much talent in the building. Players like Tasha Humphrey (Georgia), Erlana Larkins and Rashanda McCants (North Carolina), Sharnee’ Zoll (Virginia), and Shahida Williams of Old Dominion University put on an exhibition that was greatly appreciated. In addition, there were some coaching legends going head to head in Norfolk. Sylvia Hatchell, head coach of UNC and Andy Landers of Georgia who are both inductees to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame will go toe to toe, while Virginia’s Debbie Ryan who is set to be enshrined in the summer, will battle long time interstate rival Wendy Larry and the Lady Monarchs.
Unfortunately, some games in the first round are rather boring, but the second round usually offers a lot more excitement because teams are more evenly matched. At last… we are here in the playoffs. At last… we have 32 teams left. Who will be left standing after round two?
Game Day Two
Old Dominion University hasn’t been this hot since 1997. The arena was so loud at times. It was so intense that the mascots Big Blue and the Cavalier Guy got into a dance off that got out of control. The arena actually looked like the deep blue sea with a few orange life vests floating around. After awhile, the Georgia fans arrived dressed in red and immediately began to cheer for ODU while Carolina quietly observed the game and remained silent until the Lady Tarheels took the floor. Four teams were still standing but only two would advance to Greensboro.
The first game (ODU vs UVA) was heart wrenching and took an overtime effort by both teams for one to come out victorious. ODU advanced to the Sweet 16 by beating UVA 88 – 85 in front of a packed gym of 9,500 people, meanwhile, North Carolina convincingly beat Georgia 80 – 66 and are heading home to continue the fight for the crown.
Certainly, the NCAA playoffs are the most exciting time of the year for basketball players, coaches, and teams. The excitement begins to build when all 64 qualified teams patiently wait to see where they will be headed. Seemingly, all of the action, competition, and fan interest heighten around this tournament. As a matter of fact, it generated a lot of interest in the second round here in Norfolk.
In brief, we thought that this was going to be a bad year for the tournament. We thought that the NCAA selection committee was crazy in their decision-making therefore, we concluded that they are in the dark ages. On the contrary, we hold the most organized and intelligent group of basketball minds in the world. We cannot understand why they do what they do however, the results are always the same and that’s “ One team – One champion”.
This weekend shined light on the growth of women’s basketball. It reminded us of how far we have come over the years and how far we will go but, in the meantime, on to the next city…