Bumped. GO BRUINS. -N
My first NCAA Tournament Game ever was USC-Kentucky. My second, the Sweet-16 nightcap at the First Union Center--#4 UCLA v. # 1 Duke. An incredible experience, even though we lost. Some things have changed since then, like the name of the arena (now it's the Wachovia Center) and our seed (#6 this year). But let's hope one other thing changes as well--let's hope we can exercise the deamons of our last trip to that arena, and leave this weekend with a couple of wins.
It was my senior year, and I had promised myself that if UCLA made it to the second weekend of the tournament, I would be there--no matter where it was. And sure enough, there I was watching the final minutes of UCLA's second round game, celebrating a victory and frantically booking southwest tickets to the closest airport to Philly--Baltimore, MD (BMI). And then, to seal the deal, I bum rushed the CTO the next morning as soon as they opened to put in my application for Tournament tickets. And then I waited and hoped for the best.
I found out soon thereafter that I got 2 student tickets to the games, and a friend of mine from high school, who didn't go to UCLA but understood the magic of the university, agreed to go. A borrowed Bruincard later, my friend and I were ready.
We flew into Baltimore late on a Wednesday night (right after a final the day before), and drove what seemed like never-ending toll roads to Philly. It was a lesson on East Coast driving which annoyed me, but it awesome nevertheless. In the car there was tournament trivia, and in the rear windows--huge signs in support of UCLA. "Go Bruins!" they read, and of course "Got Scissors?"
We arrived in Philly, exhausted but content. We rallied for some cheesesteaks at a dirty drive in at nearly 2 AM, and then slept them off.
Next morning, we cruised around town trying to see some sights, and then headed over to the arena at the first opportunity. Once there, we learned that only 3 UCLA students had applied for tournament tickets--and we were "2" of them. Of course, I knew that "one" of us wasn't even a student--my friend went to UC Davis--but it felt good to know we had travelled the length of the country to see our team. Then we got the good news. Because there were only 3 student tickets assigned, the athletic department had decided to give us the best tickets UCLA had available. The result: we sat at essentially mid-court in the third row of the lower level. Amazing. Behind us were Bruin parents and stars--and behind them, east coast bruin alums up to the rafters. It was a sight indeed.
So we all know how that weekend went. USC completely shocked Kentucky (and hoards of their fans) in the first game behind solid performances by Sam Clancy and Brandon Granville, and UCLA just couldn't stop Duke--as Shane Battier and Jay Williams were just too solid. It was brutal to watch SC win and UCLA lose, for me as a UCLA fan, and for the rest of the entire arena--as it seemed everyone was praying for an Elite 8 Kentucky v. Duke rematch. But I'll tell you this. I don't remember the UCLA loss as much as I remember the experience. If you are a student at UCLA, and you have not yet traveled to see the Bruins in the NCAA Tournament--you need to do it. It is a rare experience, and you'll never forget it.
Here's to hoping someone reads this and get to Philly this weekend. It will be worth it, I'm sure of it. Plus, since we lost our last game at that arena, it seems we're due.