March has begun. For some of you this may mean spring, but there are still several inches of snow on the ground here. I’m ready for spring, but that’s not what has me excited. And for those of you wondering, this post isn’t about farming. David and I are both big college basketball fans, and March means NCAA basketball at it’s finest!
My parents raised me right, as an Illini fan, and in my time at Illinois I grew to truly cherish basketball season, and especially March. I refuse to believe there is any post season event in any sport better than the NCAA tournament and ultimately the Final Four. I got the opportunity to attend the Final Four in 2005 when my Illini were the number one number one seed. Unfortunately we lost the title game, but it was still one of the best events I’ve ever experienced.
If you’re questioning my level of basketball crazy, let me elaborate. I was a member of Orange Krush at Illinois. Orange Krush isn’t just a student section. To be a member you have to raise money for the Orange Krush Foundation, which has donated well over 1 million dollars to various charities over the last several years. I was an All American Member, which means I raised $3 per 3-point-shot, that’s about $750 a year. This status gave me preference for floor seats, but no seats were guaranteed. If you wanted the best seats, you had to get there first. The doors opened an hour before the game. To get floor seats you generally needed to be there at least two hours before that. For big games it was often more like six hours. My seats were usually front row right next to the opposing team’s bench. I actually purchased my first Cahartt coat to keep warm while waiting outside for basketball games – remember, this was Illinois in December through February. Anyone can wait outside when it’s 70…CLICK HERE to view a great video about the Orange Krush. You can see me in my college days around 0:41.
I also paid enough attention to the teams that when David bought me a piece of the Assembly Hall court as a 2011 Christmas gift, I recognized the game the photo it was framed with was from. It was a “break game” (over the holidays) from the 2005-2006 season against Iowa. We let Iowa make a comeback near the end, but came away with the “W”. The break games didn’t follow the same ticketing/seating procedures, and I had managed to get tickets for my parents as a gift. I actually found myself and my parents in the photo sitting (well, standing…) on the sideline. It’s maybe the best gift I’ve ever received, even though he had no idea.
Since meeting David, I’ve also adopted the Kansas State Wildcats as my local favorite team. We actually have a K-State/Illini room that serves as an office, where that picture and piece of the hardwood hang. As you can imagine, this has been an especially fun season since K-State hired Illinois’ former coach, Bruce Weber, who was in Champaign during my tenure. I actually met him several times, and as most who know me know, I think very highly of him as a person and a coach. I was thrilled when K-State hired him because it felt like I got to “keep him” as “my coach”. Now both of our teams are doing well and look to be headed to the tourney.
Don’t be surprised if we set a TV up in the milk barn during the first two rounds. It’s March; anything goes!