So tWWL is at Pauley this evening. The Duke Sports Programming Network (DSPN) is making its annual token West Coast visit to show how it actually cares about West Coast basketball program. The students are fire up (which is awesome to see) and it's an opportunity for a coach and a clueless athletic department to trot out silly spin to prop up a struggling (what should be an elite) program that hasn't lived up to expectations.
We fully expect UCLA - a team with 6 McDonald Americans on the roster - to demolish an overhyped, poorly coached Arizona team which shouldn't be in the top-20. What we also hope is after UCLA pounds Pauley the student don't rush Nell and John Wooden Court as if something big happened at Pauley.
There has been some discussion in recent days after DSPN darling Mike Krzyzewski whined this week about getting rushed during a tough loss against Virginia in Charlottesville on Thursday. Krzyewski's comments were ridiculous and basically an attempt to take the attention away from the fact that his team is not a dominant power in the ACC this season. As Seth Greenberg mentioned later on DSPN - rushing the court (for not so elite programs) is part of the ritual of college basketball.
That brings me to these grafs in a New York Times blog post discussing the ritual of rushing the court:
The celebratory behavior is certainly not alien to the Duke basketball program, although it must be noted that a search on YouTube of "Duke fans storming the court" reveals hundreds of examples of opponents gone wild, but a scant few Blue Devils fans following suit.
There are disbelieving Virginia Tech fans galloping onto the court and piling on one another in near delirium; stunned Temple fans, mouths agape as they run around in circles; and Miami Hurricane fans, shedding their cool personae, for a spirited and impromptu mosh pit.
Even North Carolina gets into the act, although the word "saunter" seems more appropriate than "storm" in that instance. (Duke fans returned the favor after beating the Tar Heels in the 2011 A.C.C. championship game.)
Duke fans are called the Cameron Crazies, and they have certainly been known to distract opposing players, but for the most part, they play it the way U.C.L.A. fans did during the Bruins' glory years in the 1960s and '70s: they expect to win.
I'd argue that UCLA students in mid to early 90s also had this down. From 1991 to 1996 we rushed the court IIRC 3 times:
- 1992: After IIRC a top-5 UCLA team beat a top-8 Arizona team at Pauley to clinch at least a tie for the Pac-10 conference championship - we bull rushed the court - stomping over Dick Vitale.
- 1992: Two days later after beat Arizona we demolished ASU to clinch the Pac-10 outright and number 1 seed in West. We again rushed the court to celebrate a conference championship we hadn't won in a while.
- 1995: Rushed the court after we beat Oregon at Pauley in the last game of the season - that clinched the conference title as we celebrated Ed O'Bannon and Tyus Edney's last game with Bruins wrapping up not just the number 1 seed in the West, but the overall number 1 seed in the entire NCAA tournament.
Those are the three occasions I can think of. I don't think we ever rushed the court in random games with no championships on the line. We certainly didn't rush the court because UCLA won as an "underdog" in some game against a much higher ranked opponent. I think it is awesome that the students are fired up today. I hope they look and sound amazing. If we had a competent athletic department that made sure the cameras were focusing on the students, I am sure they'd look fantastic.
But I really hope they remember UCLA's place in basketball history after the Bruins dispatch a worthless Arizona team tonight. These Wildcats don't deserve the kind of respect that merits rushing the court tonight.