It was still dark when a bus crawled out of Albany this morning. At 6:00 a.m., a transport carrying the Great Dane student section was headed for Philadelphia and first round battle with heavily favored Duke.
By halftime, and down by nine, the kids from Albany may have been taking a breather; feet were propped up on seats, eyes were weary from the road, and even the guy in the skin tight solid gold body suit had taken his face off.
But by the time the second half started, they were back on their feet.
"UA dances better!" someone yelled from the student section as the Duke cheerleading squad performed their routine.
"Honestly, I was so jazzed up for this, it didn't really affect me that much," said Albany student Mike Nolan. "I've been waiting for five years for us make the tournament. I would have gotten up at two in the morning if I had to. It makes no difference to me."
Keeping that momentum is tough. Not every Albany fan is on the cheerleading squad, one of whom almost enthusiastically kicked me in the skull during warm-ups.
"If we win, it'd be incredible," Mike says. "But just being here and being part of it for our school, it's just so great to be a part of it. Whatever happens today, we'll be proud of our guys no matter how they play."
"With Duke, we realize, they're just on a whole other level. We just need to hit the three ball like we did in the first half. You never know what could happen."
The bus ride back to Albany can be as long as five hours. But that's not the ride Mike's concerned about.
"It's been a fun ride. If today's the end of it, then today's the end of it."