Saturday, March 29, 2008

Elite Eight

By Preston Davis



It never felt in doubt, and my hands still haven’t left my head from all of the amazement. The entire second half my fingers either covered my mouth or grabbed my red hair from the pure madness of the whole scene.

Eight teams remain in America: eight schools, eight fan clubs, eight communities. Davidson is an Elite Eight team. Read it again: Davidson is an ELITE EIGHT TEAM.

Simply, we were loose. We knew we belonged on America’s biggest stage. A loose ball fell to McKillop’s feet he picked it up, dribbled through his legs twice, flashed his million-dollar smile, and sent a chest pass back to the refs. We began the verbal procession: BOB Mah-Kill-Up-ClapClapClapClapClap…

Our group sat behind Chris Alpert and Brandon “Ozone” Williams, two of Davidson’s best players since Bob McKillop took the reigns. During the dismantling of Wisconsin—especially the second half when Steph outscored the Badgers all on his lonesome—all these legends could do was shake their heads and smile.

Ford Field is monstrous. It has its own zip code. Our chants that usually rattle Belk Arena felt like they could barely even be heard near the court. 60,000 people at a basketball game. Are you kidding me?  60,000 people at a Davidson basketball game. Are you kidding me x2?

Even with all those numbers the place felt cavernous. That was until eight minutes left in the game when we started our anthem. Andrew Lovedale stepped to the foul line for an “and one.” We led by 15 at the time. We screamed “Sweet Caroline” at the top of our lungs. Andrew missed his free throw, but it didn’t faze us, or even the team. We were up by 15 then, and I don’t think anything could have brought us down.

Probably the biggest moment in the game: Steph slowly jogs down the left side of the court. He perfected his change of pace, blitzes by Michael Flowers—touted by some as the best defender in the nation—receives a bounce pass from Jason Richards (1 of his 13 assists), gets hit as he goes to the basket, spins in the air, flouts behind the backboard, throws up the ball with english, whistle blows, basket counts, and LeBron James—sitting behind the Davidson bench—goes ‘wow.’ LeBron James likes Steph. LeBron James is a Davidson College supporter. I go ‘wow.’

Dell and Sonya Curry leave the arena while many of the Davidson fans watch the Kansas/Villanova game. Everyone stands to applaud which simply says, “thank you for your son.”

During the Kansas pummeling of Villanova a Detroit high school teacher sitting in front of me keeps turning around to give me tips on what to write about, “You should talk about them being a Cinderella story.” I thank him for his astute observation. As he explains to me that Detroit is the city without consequences, he says, “We don’t even have this many people for a Lions’ game.”

A new cat has taken over Detroit.

Leaving the arena in the Detroit night, we, the fans, become the focus of all Detroit. We are celebrated by everyone we pass by for no more than wearing Davidson paraphernalia. The once ghost town Detroit lives, and lives to support Davidson. A Wisconsin fan asks “Hey, can you take pictures with me and pretend to kick the s**t out of me?” Another Wisconsin fan offers me $60 for my Davidson Soccer raincoat.

Yet, in all this hoopla, our group of 4 answered this question on Friday 21 times: “Where is Davidson?”

Instead of being annoyed with it, now, as ever, it’s a point of pride.

Come Sunday night, if you don’t know where Davidson is, just ask us. We’ll hopefully tell you: “On its way to San Antonio.”

Day of rest today, but there will be tons of press on Davidson. Davidson has never made it to a final four, but has gone to the elite eight twice before. I’ll tell you tomorrow how all of Davidson Nation is responding to the melee.

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