Eleven: the number of years that passed since March Madness was last played at Key Arena in Seattle.
Eight: the number of teams that traveled to Seattle to take part in second- and third-round games.
Six: the number of games seen by one Kid Reporter at Key Arena during the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament on March 20 and 22.
March Madness often lives up to its name. Every year, there are sure to be a few upsets of highly-ranked teams in the first two rounds, and often a team comes out of nowhere to make a deep run in the tournament.
Covering the tournament is just as hectic. Games begin quickly after the preceding game ends. Locker rooms are filled with cameras, reporters, and journalists from around the nation. Handouts with stats of all kinds cover every table in the media room. However, covering the tournament was a valuable experience and a whole lot of fun!
Because games started early on the morning of Friday, March 20, I chose to go to the press conferences and open practices late on Thursday to get a feel for the arena. After navigating the tunnels and rooms inside the arena, I went to my seat to watch Iowa’s open practice.
Being a college basketball fan, I’ve watched many games on TV. However, only by watching the team in person could I truly grasp how smoothly the players moved. They’re some of the best athletes in the country, and they were determined to practice as hard as they play in games.
My Friday started at 8:40 a.m., when I arrived at Key Arena in preparation for the first game. If practice was awe-inspiring, the games were unbelievable in person. In the Round of 64, every team thinks they have a shot at the title, and each player puts everything on the line.
The most unique experience I had at March Madness was interviewing players in the locker room. I was intimidated at first; cameras and large groups of reporters are all crowding around the players and questions are asked at a very fast pace.
The first interview is always the hardest, and after I completed my first with Northern Iowa guard Deon Mitchell, I gained some confidence for my next interviews with Louisville guard Terry Rozier and Gonzaga forward Domantis Sabonis.
On Saturday, there were more press conferences, my favorite of which was Louisville coach Rick Pitino’s. While watching Pitino field questions from local and national reporters, I noticed how relaxed he seemed while up at the podium. He spoke with a swagger to him, making light-hearted jokes along the way, a confidence that isn’t captured by watching press conferences at home.
On the court, Pitino couldn’t be different. I kept an eye on the Louisville bench during their third-round game on Sunday, and was forced to keep an ear on them too; it’s a wonder how people throughout the stadium couldn’t hear Pitino yelling at his players. Pitino is all business on game day, and his strategy works, as Louisville made it all the way to the Elite Eight.
After three days and over 20 hours spent at Key Arena, second- and third-round play finally came to a close. Once I became familiar with the players and coaches on the teams that competed in the Pacific Northwest, I understood the games that followed much more clearly. Being from the Emerald City, I can only hope we have the chance to host another tournament.
Photos: Evan Bergen-Epstein