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For love of the game

Maggie Oldham | Friday, October 29, 2004

October is coming to an end and I am stoked. Not because of the crazy costume parties and scary movie marathons happening this weekend, but because in three days November begins. November is the month of the biggest binge day, but more importantly, the beginning of the finest sports season – college basketball.

College and basketball. Two words already great by themselves, but put them together and you get hysteria combined with incredible athletic talent to create the greatest sports spectacle in the country.

I am blessed to have lived in Indiana my entire life. Call it Hoosier hysteria; in this state, basketball is sacred. And with Notre Dame’s men’s basketball team predicted to place high in the Big East, it’s likely to bring life back to Indiana basketball. Last year, the only Indiana team to make it to the NCAA tournament was Valparaiso. March was a sad month indeed.

My love for college basketball started when I was too young to remember. My Dad, an avid IU basketball fan his entire life, introduced me to college hoops. When I was in elementary school, my Dad took me to nearly every IU home basketball game. The drive through southern Indiana was great, but Assembly Hall was even better.

For four years, I fell in love with high school basketball as well. The movie “Hoosiers” chronicles a small-town Indiana high school basketball team’s journey to the state tourney. This true story inspired many Indiana boys to practice their free-throws in the backyard in hopes of one day leading their team to victory. Although my basketball career never left the driveway, I loved being a cheerleader and traveling with my high school’s basketball team across the state to face the best athletes in the nation.

My junior year of high school, Indiana basketball was at its finest. Notre Dame entered the NCAA Tournament in March 2002 seeded eighth in the South Region. And, as my friends and I, on a big screen on the beach in Ft. Myers Fla., watched IU beat Oklahoma to make it to the final game, I thought that Indiana basketball had finally redeemed itself. Last year’s tournament proved otherwise.

This year, Notre Dame has a chance to bring Indiana basketball back up to its prestigious level. With senior captains Jordan Cornette and Chris Thomas, and junior captains Torin Francis and Chris Quinn leading the Irish, the Leprechaun Legion can expect a strong performance and a tournament bid this year.

Nothing beats the adrenaline in a fieldhouse packed wall-to-wall with people screaming and hammering the bleachers during the final seconds of a close game. The smell of popcorn, the sound of the pep band and the beat of basketballs dribbled up and down the floor – I can’t think of a better college sports atmosphere. I was lucky to get tickets this year, and I will definitely be at every home game. And thus my love of the game continues … bring it on, November.

P.S. Good luck to all the guys that attended Notre Dame men’s basketball walk-on tryouts Thursday (especially if you are an Indiana boy living out a hoosier dream!)