SPOKANE, Wash.—With the Harvard men’s basketball team gearing up for its first NCAA Tournament matchup of 2014 against the favored Cincinnati Bearcats here Thursday afternoon, a number of fans and support groups have made the cross-country trek to support the Crimson, and many more are planning to take in the game at viewing parties scheduled at locations in Cambridge and across the country.
Of those cities selected to host NCAA regional games, Spokane was by far the most distant in which the Crimson could have been placed. But by Wednesday afternoon, the Harvard Varsity Club had already sold out its 250-ticket allotment, according to Jennifer C. Flynn, director of clubs and shared interest groups for the Harvard Alumni Association. Flynn added that her office has been fielding additional requests for tickets, which are available now on the re-sale market.
Harvard affiliates across the country who cannot make the trip to Spokane are planning to host viewing parties for Thursday’s game, which is set to begin at 2:10 p.m. EST. Official parties will take place at John Harvard’s Brew House in Cambridge, at the Harvard Club of Boston, at Choppers Sports Grill in Denver, and at a still-to-be-determined location in Cincinnati, Ohio.
But in Spokane, Harvard supporters have been gathering for two days. About 300 fans, many of them wearing Harvard apparel, turned out for the team’s open practice at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on Wednesday. After the practice concluded, the team gathered at center court to salute the fans in attendance and players stopped to sign autographs while exiting the court.
Also in attendance at Wednesday’s open practice were the Harvard Cheerleaders and members of the University Band, the two main support groups that will be featured during Thursday’s game. Last year, when the Crimson upset the heavily-favored New Mexico Lobos and advanced to the tournament’s second round, the members of the band, their uniforms, and their expressive celebrations drew national media attention.
“Some of our freshman definitely arrived [to the band] after seeing that picture,” said band-member Theo J. Gerome ’15. Gerome added that the NCAA tournament is one of the band’s most anticipated events of the year. Due to NCAA regulations, only 30 of the band’s roughly 65 members can play at the tournament, he said.
For the cheerleaders, who next month head to a national collegiate cheerleading competition in Daytona Beach, Florida, the NCAA tournament is as much an opportunity for pressure and exposure as anything else.
“It’s definitely really amazing to see so many people out there, but it’s also really great for us because we go to a national competition where there are a lot more people than are usually in Lavietes, so I think it’s really great exposure,” said cheer co-captain Jaquell G. Sneed-Adams ’14.
Each morning in Spokane, the band and cheerleaders have come together to form a tunnel of cheers and music outside the basketball team’s hotel. The group will gather for another send-off on Thursday morning as the Crimson aim to beat the odds once again.
—Staff writer Matthew Q. Clarida can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattclarida.