The UAlbany men's basketball team on Thursday in Philadelphia. (Photo by Gregory Fisher / SportsThroughTheLens.com)
ALBANY College students rarely cut their spring break short.
More than 300 students, though, were ready to return to the University of Albany for Friday morning’s early bus trip to see their men’s basketball team play Duke in the NCAA tournament a little after noon. There were 50 coveted spots on a student fan bus being organized by the Athletic Department, which is also sponsoring three other buses for local fans heading to the game in Philadelphia.
“I’ve been getting countless emails,” said UAlbany Associate Athletic Director Charlie Voelker about the demand for seats on the bus.
• Today’s game is televised on the local CBS affiliate, WRGB, which is Channel 6 in standard definition and 1806 in high definition for Time Warner Cable customers. Games are also broadcast on the Internet at www.cbssports.com and can be heard on WOFX (980 AM).
• The Gazette will have sports reporter Bob Weiner, news reporter David Lombardo and photographer Patrick Dodson at the game. Follow them on Twitter at @BobWeiner58, @poozer87 and @patrickdodson, respectively.
• Lombardo and Dodson will be traveling on a fan bus, which was to leave at 6 a.m. They’ll have updates on Twitter and www.dailygazette.com until the bus returns tonight.
This isn’t the first dance for the men’s basketball team, but it is the first
time the college has sponsored four buses. The three non-student buses were available to people in the Capital Region with tickets who needed a ride.
“Our fans have been great and stuck by us. Our student attendance has been better than ever,” said Voelker. “We’re doing the best for our fans.”
For any students who are back on campus already, they can enjoy some communal viewing in the Campus Center. The televisions there will be set to the men’s game today and the women’s first-round game Sunday against North Carolina.
Right nearby will be popular off-campus viewing for the game, with the Across the Street Pub on Western Avenue expected to be hopping earlier than usual because of the game’s start. The bar is preparing for people to show up before noon and anticipate a busy lunch hour.
Bars and restaurants all across the Capital Region are expected to see a rush this afternoon, as UAlbany will be an adopted fan favorite.
For some, like Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings, a UAlbany alum, it can be hard to sneak away in the middle of the day to watch a basketball game.
“I’m going to try and move something around in my schedule,” he said. “I’m excited. It’s great. ... This is the city’s team.”
Jennings highlighted the fact that both the men’s and women’s teams from UAlbany made it into their respective tournaments. He said men’s coach Will Brown and women’s coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson deserve a lot of credit for the good runs so far. Both programs, the mayor said, have come a long way since he went to UAlbany. At that time, the college had yet to make the leap to Division I.
His hopes for the UAlbany men’s team, which is a huge underdog to Duke, are grounded in reality. “I just hope they’re very competitive,” Jennings said.
Both UAlbany teams are playing powerhouse programs in Duke and UNC, which Voelker said would undoubtedly make for a highlight that fans and players won’t forget.
There is a softer side to all this, too, highlighted during a news conference Thursday afternoon with Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski, who wears a wristband in recognition of the Dec. 1 car crash that killed two Shenendehowa High School seniors. He has worn the bracelet since the family of Deanna Rivers, who died in the accident, visited the Duke campus.
“We invited them to come down and spend a week, spend a game, have a game experience, and Brian and [Deborah] gave us some things and one of them was the bracelet and I told them I would wear it,” Krzyzewski said at the news conference. “So it’s an easy thing to do.”
Of the crash, he added, “It’s an amazing tragedy. I have three daughters and eight grandkids and I can’t even imagine, I can’t even imagine it,”