(Local 8 Sports director Rick Russo blogs from New Orleans)
NEW ORLEANS -- What a site basketball fans early Friday morning in the Big Easy.
Big Blue Nation made its presence felt, turning the Crescent City into Blue Orleans. Kentucky fans are here in force and helped fill the New Orleans Arena to capacity Friday afternoon. Coach John Calipari would say after his team's quarterfinal round win over LSU, that these are the fans who normally don't get tickets to games at Rupp and save all their money for tournament time. Well it shows and does so at all hours of the day.
Late after work last night, while settling in for a snack near the hotel, who could hear the chant coming down the street, C-A-T-S, Go Cats Go! And those were middle-aged women going strong despite the near midnight hour. It truly is something to behold and can be intimidating to fans of the other 11 League schools.
Although, I did speak with a pair of Big Orange backers from Destin Florida, who said 'bring it on' and that they don't mind playing the underdog role.
Neither do the Vols, who enter this tourney as a two seed and are fully confident of making a run through Sunday. Of course, that would mean a possible rematch with those rowdy Cat fans and their top ranked basketball team.
The Vols are anxious to play after having talked with Coach Cuonzo Martin and the players at near by Holy Cross High School. What a neat experience that was! The school, then located in the 9th Ward was destroyed by Katrina. Enrollment dropped to well below 200.
Now the school has been rebuilt into a state of the art facility and is home to 940 students. The student body is expected to be around 1000 by next school year.
Coach Martin says not lost on his team are the difficulties this city has been though. Certainly paling in comparison to that are the tough times his team has experienced this season; however, that adversity has helped the Vols continue to improve. We'll see if that improvement continues as the postseason begins tonight for Tennessee!