Friday, March 21, 2008

A spirited atmosphere in Raleigh

N.C. State athletics director Lee Fowler was standing in one of the tunnels leading onto the court during one of the open practices Thursday, wondering aloud what kind of crowd Friday’s NCAA tournament first session would bring to the Wolfpack’s home floor at the RBC Center.

It’s a given that the evening session, which will feature North Carolina, will have a spirited atmosphere. Turns out the afternoon session does, too.

There is a lot of Carolina blue in the stands, and there are fans wearing Duke jerseys, too. They bought tickets a long time ago anticipating that they’d be able to see their teams at the RBC Center. North Carolina’s fans will. Duke’s won’t.

Their teams have played Davidson during the season and gained respect for the Wildcats. And though there are pockets of empty seats, it’s a large crowd overwhelmingly in favor of Davidson.
If the Wildcats are a favorite regionally in their opening game against Gonzaga, there was plenty of evidence that they have a way to go before they grab the national recognition they crave.

Though Gonzaga West Coast Conference player of the year Jeremy Pargo clearly respects Davidson point guard Jason Richards, he had no idea until Thursday that Richards is from the Chicago area as Pargo is.

And on the Westwood One Radio pregame show, analyst John Thompson Jr. mispronounced the name of Davidson’s best player. Thompson either didn’t know or had forgotten that Stephen Curry is pronounced “Steffen,” not “Steven.”

Here’s guessing that John Thompson III, who’s Georgetown’s coach, wouldn’t make the same mistake if Davidson advances to play the Hoyas in the second round.

– Ken Tysiac