The Washington Times-Herald

February 22, 2014

Let the kids storm

By Dennis Glade
Times Herald Columnist

---- — The act of storming the court is one of the most polarizing topics in college sports for a variety reasons — most of them are negative. The view on whether or not it's the right time to storm the court after a big win for the home team tends to be old sports writers against 18-21 year old college students, who just want to celebrate with their team. Sports are supposed to be fun, right?

The latest and greatest court stroming came Thursday night at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. where the University of North Carolina defeated No. 5 Duke, 74-66, in another classic between the two Tobacco Road rivals. Duke and North Carolina are viewed as four of college basketball's "blue bloods" as the standard that all other programs in the country. The Tar Heels and Blue Devils have combined to win five national titles since 1993.

Typically the action of storming the court is reserved for a major underdog defeating a team that holds the status of a Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky or even UCLA. The most famous court storming in recent memory came when Christian Watford's 3-pointer beat the buzzer at Assembly Hall in Dec. 2011 to give Indiana its first signature win of the Tom Crean era over then-No. 1 Kentucky.

Indiana has a long basketball history, but has fallen on very hard times. The Hoosiers were once looked as one of if not the premier program in men's college basketball. IU hasn't won a national title in 27 years and that win over rival Kentucky was viewed as a signal that IU was 'back' on the national landscape. Instead the Hoosiers have yet to get back to the Final Four. I will preface something before I got on — I've been a UNC fan for as long as I can remember and despite holding an IU diploma, I have no love for the Hoosiers men's basketball program. I have openly mocked the Hoosiers' storming the court in wins during the Tom Crean era at Assembly Hall.

In the final minutes of UNC's win Thursday night, I read tweets that the student crowd at the Dean Dome was going to rush the court after the Tar Heels took down Duke and I immediately had mixed emotions. Sitting on my couch at my house, I was pumped that the Tar Heels had beaten Duke, but my long held belief was that a program like North Carolina shouldn't rush the court. After some thinking, I have come to change my view on this debate. College athletics are supposed to be full of excitement and joy, but we are going to chastise the students for wanting to run on the court and celebrate a huge win over its bitter rival?

These students likely weren't in Chapel Hill the last time the Tar Heels won a national title (2009) and what they have experienced this year has been a roller coaster ride of emotion. Thursday night's win gave North Carolina its third win over a top 5 team this season and it became the first team to ever beat the top four teams from that season's AP poll. Those are all things North Carolina is expected to do — beat the best of the best. This North Carolina team has also lost to Belmont, Alabama-Birmingham, Wake Forest and Miami on its way to a 19-7, 9-4 ACC mark. North Carolina has won eight games in a row and is as hot as any team in the country at a time when every team is trying to be at their best.

Thursday's win was an example where a fan base was very excited about a huge win and reacted in a way that shouldn't be criticized. I will admit that the opinion I had regarding storming the court has changed, but the reasons most dislike is silly. Just because a program is historic with a long history of excellence doesn't mean it's young fans shouldn't be exempt from celebrating — after all — college basketball is supposed to be fun.