Fans of the University of Virginia’s undefeated men’s basketball team are ready to rock – and the infectious spirits of Cavalier fans are gathering steam throughout Charlottesville.
ESPN’s popular “College GameDay” program is coming to U.Va.’s John Paul Jones Arena for the first time Saturday for a titanic Atlantic Coast Conference showdown between U.Va, ranked No. 2 nationally, and No. 4 Duke. The outcome will likely affect the race for the ACC title as well as NCAA Tournament seeding on Selection Sunday.
“We hope to see everyone decked out in orange this coming Saturday morning for ESPN ‘College GameDay,’” said fourth-year College of Arts & Sciences student Dylan Fogarty, vice president of the Hoo Crew, U.Va.’s student fan group. “ESPN ‘College GameDay’ is typically an event that showcases the student section’s creativity and spirit with signs, so I am expecting to see hundreds of signs come ‘GameDay.’”
“GameDay,” ESPN’s signature college basketball live pregame show, begins at 10 a.m. on ESPNU before airing on ESPN from 11 a.m. until noon. Admission to JPJ and parking Saturday morning will be free; gates will open at 9 a.m., and the seating is general admission.
“Wear orange, rest your voice up and be ready to show the nation the best student and fan section in all of college basketball,” said Logan Dickinson, a third-year student in the Curry School of Education and director of internal operations for Hoo Crew. “This is a great opportunity for our team and for the University to show what it means to be a Virginia Cavalier.”
Both teams have been ranked in the Top 10 for the entire season – the Cavaliers (19-0, 7-0 ACC) have moved up from their No. 9 preseason ranking, while the Blue Devils have been ranked in the top five throughout the season (though they suffered their third loss of the month Wednesday night at Notre Dame).
An evening edition of “GameDay,” also hosted at the arena, will lead into the 7 p.m. tip-off. A game ticket is required for admission. (If you don’t have one yet, good luck. The game was sold out in October.)
For the national broadcast, the “College GameDay” crew will include Jay Bilas, Jay Williams (both Duke graduates, it should be noted), former Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg and host Rece Davis. Bilas will also serve as analyst for ESPN’s Virginia-Duke game broadcast, alongside Dan Shulman on the play-by-play and reporter Shannon Spake.
A key feature of the “College GameDay” show are the signs that rowdy fans hold up behind the hosts’ set during the broadcast.
“Hoo Crew has been working hard over the past week to make new signs, buying every orange and blue streamer in the surrounding area in the process,” said Dickinson said. “We hope that everyone is as excited as we are to welcome the ESPN ‘College Game Day’ crew to Charlottesville for the first time ever.”
Hoo Crew’s goal is hoping to draw around 7,000 enthusiastic students. The first 1,500 to arrive at John Paul Jones Arena will receive a free T-shirt at the southeast gate, and another 1,500 free T-shirts will be distributed at the main entrance
Though the game is sold out, University Programs Council and First Year Council will host a watch party at Alumni Hall for ticketless students. There will food, drinks and prizes throughout the night. Doors open at 6:30 pm.
There’s digital excitement as well. Facebook pages have been established surrounding the event, the Hoo Crew Facebook page and Twitter account are lit up, and Wahoo Central is capturing the larger social media conversation from the #GoHoos and #wahoowa hashtags (the official game tag is #DUKEvsUVA).
“We have been very excited about the atmosphere U.Va has put on surrounding this tremendous University athletic event,” Fogarty said. “ESPN ‘College GameDay’ is a huge opportunity to showcase our incredible U.Va. fan base and to show the world why we are considered the Naismith Student Section of the Year.
“Our basketball team deserves every bit of this excitement, and we hope to continue this U.Va pride for the rest of the season – and to the seasons that come.”