ARTICLE OF THE DAY

Rooting Interests
by Brian North
3/22/06

When it comes to March Madness, there is always a debate among East Carolina basketball fans about who to root for. The Pirates have only been in two NCAA Tournaments (1972 & 1993), so ECU fans who want a rooting interest in the tournament adopt other schools for a few weeks. But who should Pirate fans pull for this year? Let the debate begin.

The only team from the state of North Carolina left in the Sweet 16 is Duke. But most Pirate fans would rather eat broken glass than root for an ACC team (that includes Boston College). Plus the Blue Devils only have one player from the state on their roster, the popular Ross Perkins from Greensboro. And rooting for Duke is like jumping on the Yankees band wagon; it seems kind of tacky to pull for a winner if you haven't done it your whole life.

So maybe it should be the converse; whoever Duke plays. LSU plays Duke Thursday night, so maybe Pirate fans will pull for the Tigers and their popular center Glen "Big Baby" Davis.

What about Texas? The Longhorns have a player from good old NC. P.J. Tucker is from Raleigh, but Texas is coached by Rick Barnes, an admitted NC State fan growing up, and a former Clemson coach, so Pirate fans will have a tough time hooking on to the horns.

West Virgina and ECU have a history on the football field. Could the Mountaineers get some help from the Pirate ship. You can't go wrong rooting for a guy named Pittsnoggle. But the Mountaineers are in the Big East, the place most ECU fans long to be, so there is a jealousy factor involved that may prevent Pirates from latching on to them. That means they can't root for Connecticut, Georgetown, or Villanova either.

Florida is where ECU hired football coach John Thompson away from (enough said).

West Coast teams are also out (UCLA, Gonzaga, Washington). Gonzaga does have Adam Morrison who has type one diabetes and is a great story, but East Coasters can't root for West Coasters. It's just not in the chemistry (see the rap wars).

Wichita State seems like a great choice for Pirate fans. They have been over looked (a trait ECU fans claim to know well), they have a great half court offense that features a balanced attack inside and out. And they have a great mascot, the Shockers (it's not an electricity thing. It actually comes from the name of the laborers who were in charge of knocking the seeds off the wheat stalks in the Midwest in the early 1900's. Thrashing the wheat was also called shocking the wheat, and the young men who performed this grueling process were called wheat shockers.  It was shortened to shockers in the 1940's.).

George Mason used to play in the CAA with East Carolina (plus they beat North Carolina, which makes them an immediate favorite for ECU fans). The Patriots seem like a logical choice, and everyone loves a good Cinderella story.

But maybe the best choice is Memphis. The Tigers play in Conference USA (ECU's current conference whether Pirate fans like it or not), and the Pirates came close to upsetting Memphis in Minges Coliseum earlier this year (a 77-67 loss January 11th). John Calipari was very complimentary to ECU and its fans during the visit to Greenville. So wouldn't it be best for Pirate fans to say they came close to beating a national champion?

Personally I will be rooting for the team I have penned in as the winner of my office pool (for entertainment purposes only). But even if your team doesn't win, enjoy the madness, because it is a great time of year, even if ECU isn't involved this time around.

Brian North
bnorth@wcti12.com