See that picture over there? And that red circle? That’s me.
Yesterday morning, I woke up bright and early and drove down to Atlantic City, NJ, for my first-ever Atlantic-10 Tournament. I was stoked. I wasn’t going as a fan, but as a member of the press. The Temple News asked me to go down with them to help cover the Owls run in the tournament. Coming in as the 21st-ranked team in the nation, things looked promising, and I was excited.
After the two hour drive, I pulled into Boardwalk Hall. We might have been right next to the Atlantic Ocean, but all I could see was a sea of cherry and white of Owls fans waiting to see the rematch with the UMass Minutemen. I picked up my media credentials and made my way to the press room where we waited to be seated at the courtside press table. After grabbing all the media guides and stat sheets, I was ready.
My seat was in the second row of the press and I was so close, it was unbelievable. I thought I had great seats in row 4 back at the Liacouras Center. I set up my laptop, with Twitter and the stat site pulled up, and readied my stat sheets as the players finished their warm-ups and the game got underway. I’m passionate, but sitting there, you have to be composed and professional. So I wore my owl ring, and kept the pen moving on my stat sheet to keep me from wringing my hands too badly. With the UMass fans behind us, it was tough at times, but I was watching my favorite basketball team from the best seat in the house, so it couldn’t get much better.
I wasn’t nervous for the semifinals or even for the championship game. I was nervous for this one. The quarterfinals. On Tuesday, UMass beat Duquesne to win the #8 seed in the tournament and play Temple, the #1 seed. After being down by six to UMass in overtime last Wednesday at the Liacouras Center and still pulling out the win, I knew UMass would be out for blood, and I just prayed we could match that.
When UMass went on a 15-0 run to start the first half, I was terrified. I did not want to go home on a Friday. I knew if we could get past the Minutemen, the rest of the field would be a breeze. In the end, the 22 turnovers and 19 fast-break points killed us, and the Owls lost the ballgame. The Minutemen just wanted their revenge, and, as Coach Dunphy said, we “got out of character” and it cost us a trip to the semifinals. Sitting through the press conference afterwards was near-torturous as you could see the hurt on Mone and Juan’s faces. It’s much harder to face a loss when those are your classmates, your school out there.
But I love what I do. I love writing and I love writing about sports. So afterwards, we went into the media workroom and we wrote as best we could. As my article was posted on TTN’s website, I was disappointed not to be staying in Atlantic City longer, and disappointed my first time truly covering a team ended in a loss so early. But the experience was invaluable and to be able to watch the Owls at Boardwalk Hall was incredible. One day, I’ll be doing that full-time–watching basketball (Who am I kidding? Any sport, really.) and writing about it.
On the walk out of Boardwalk Hall later that afternoon, it hit me that this was the last Owls game I’d see in person this year. Selection Sunday is tomorrow, and we’ll know then where we’re headed for the NCAA Tournament. I may not be able to watch them in person, but I’ll be watching them every step of the way.