When I was younger, I always imagined going to college and being in the student section, in the midst of a mob of people united around shared school spirit and team pride. I’d be willing to bet that many of us had that vision at some point in our lives. And during the 2017 Patriot League Men’s Basketball Tournament, we made it happen.
If you were here last March for the Patriot League Championship against Lehigh (an 81-65 Bison victory), you can remember the hype of the crowd, the infectious excitement that spread through Sojka Pavilion as the game wound down, the mass of bodies that stormed the court in celebration once the clock struck zero. We as a student body came together, and we were that vision of the crazy student section. Finally.
But now, a year later, with the playoffs looming yet again, it seems that we have forgotten that feeling of enthusiasm in Sojka that night.
With their blowout win Feb. 14 against Loyola, the Bison men’s basketball team clinched the Patriot League regular season title for the seventh time in the past eight years. This impressive streak is a testament to the strength of our basketball program. And it means that every playoff game we play this year, we host. It means that it’s time to bring back the crazy student section again. But it’s up to us to make that happen.
This year’s team is arguably the best team that the University has seen in the four-year tenure of the Class of 2018. Last year, as a junior, Nana Foulland ’18 was recognized as Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year and Patriot League Player of the Year. This year, Zach Thomas ’18 has been dominating games and ranks in the top 20 nationally in scoring. He is only one of five players in the country to lead his conference in both scoring and rebounding. Five. That’s elite company.
This year, we held our own against daunting non-conference opponents such as Maryland and defending national champions North Carolina. Sure, we lost, but we proved that we can hang with some of the most successful teams in the nation. And that says a lot for a Patriot League school of 3,600 students out in middle-of-nowhere, Pennsylvania. We earned SportsCenter Top Ten Plays recognition. Twice. Once for Ben Robertson’s ’20 posterizing dunk against La Salle, and once for Kimbal Mackenzie’s ’19 heroic game-winning three against Colgate.
Point is, we have a lot to be proud of. We have a lot to cheer for. We have something special to unite around. We have the chance to make an impact on the season.
There’s a reason that some teams refer to their fan bases as their “sixth man.” A raucous gym is an intimidating place for an opponent to play and an electrifying environment in which the home team can thrive. Though they want to be able to say that they play at the same level regardless of the atmosphere, any basketball player will tell you that the hype of an engaged home crowd provides even more incentive to win. We owe it to our student-athletes — on every one of our Bison sports teams — to give them that edge over their competition. They’re our peers, and they deserve our support.
So take a study break, go to the game, bring your friends, stand up, scream, cheer, heckle the opposing bench. These memories will last longer than many experiences you’ll have during your four years here. Be proud to be a Bison. Be a fan. Let’s make that crazy student section vision a reality once again.