The first time you walk into the site for an NCAA Tournament first round is still exhilarating. You have no idea how long the ride will last, which is part of the thrill.
The city has little buzz for this event. There is almost no signage to indicate there is a big event in town. They’re more concerned with the St. Patrick’s Day parade than who wins the Arizona-Purdue game. On Thursday, the local paper devoted more space to the NFL Draft.
But you definitely know you’re in the right place when you walk through the media entrance at the New Orleans Arena. Because it’s all about the blue.
The NCAA has a thing about blue. So everywhere you go, it’s blue. Blue curtains, blue carpeting. Even blue Dasani cups, the official cup of the NCAA Tournament. If you don’t believe it, try walking to press row with a Diet Coke can. They’ll wrestle you to the ground to keep it from showing up on television.
This is the first time Florida has played in this arena since December of 2000 when the Gators took on Tulane in a quasi-tournament. All I remember from that game is Billy Donovan ripping his team after the game.