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Storm Surges

In a wild season without a dominant team, fans have taken to the court at every opportunity

It's a pity nobody officially tracks court stormings, those gleeful student mosh pits that spill onto the floor after huge upsets in college basketball. Such a stat would be the perfect metric in a season so wacky that the No. 1 team has lost five weeks in a row. (Next week's once-presumptive No. 1, Michigan, couldn't even make it to that slippery top rung before tottering: Last Saturday the Wolverines fell at Wisconsin in overtime, and yes, fans rushed the court.)

"All the court rushing we've seen this year doesn't just show there've been a lot of upsets," says Villanova coach Jay Wright, whose team ignited back-to-back fan swarms by knocking off No. 5 Louisville on Jan. 22 and No. 3 Syracuse in OT on Jan. 26. "There've been a lot of really passionate games."

Think the regular season doesn't matter? Tell that to the La Salle students who took to the floor after their team knocked off ninth-ranked Butler on Jan. 23 for the school's biggest win in 33 years. Tell that to the delirious TCU fans who witnessed their lowly Horned Frogs, who had been 0--9 in Big 12 play, embarrass No. 5 Kansas 62--55 on Feb. 6, one of the biggest upsets in decades. Tell that to the dancing Notre Dame students who stood through five OTs last Saturday night before the 25th-ranked Irish finally vanquished No. 11 Louisville 104--101 to bring the day's storm count to three.

Rushing the court may be an endearing tradition, but it has its perils. When fans swarmed onto the floor after N.C. State beat then No. 1 Duke on Jan. 12, a wheelchair-bound celebrant got knocked over and was in danger of being trampled before Wolfpack star C.J. Leslie came to his rescue. And it is prone to abuse: To purists, Oklahoma's beating Kansas three days after the TCU loss didn't merit the celebration it got. "My wife thinks the court should only be stormed if the win is monumental," says Indiana coach Tom Crean, whose Hoosiers have lost twice as the No. 1 team, most recently at Illinois last Thursday, where fans rushed the court. "But how do you determine monumental for a program? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

And students only get so many chances to pogo wildly in sweaty proximity to players. "The fans can say they were a part of something special as much as the players can," says Wright. "That's the beauty of college basketball; whatever else happens in our season, our students will remember those Louisville and Syracuse games for life."

"The fans can say they were a part of something special as much as the players can," says Wright.


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FLOORED Students swarmed the players following Notre Dame's five-OT win over Louisville—one of three such celebrations last Saturday.