spiders boarding the plane to buffalo

#SpiderMarch Day 1: Behind the scenes at March Madness

March 16, 2022


On the Monday before the men’s NCAA tournament, the shift began from excitement to execution. Every couple of hours, the Spiders would get quick updates about when to head to Buffalo, N.Y.

“We’ll leave Tuesday, probably after 3 p.m. Details to come.”

Then comes further word. “Flight’s at 6:30. More to come.” 

Then a little more. “Okay, busses leaving from the Robins Center at 5.” 

Then it’s wheels up at half past 6. The flight is mostly smooth. A little over an hour from Richmond to Buffalo. A dramatic bank out over Lake Erie, and the team touches down.   

The hotel where the Spiders will stay the next few days welcomed us with WebstUR stickers and Spider paraphernalia. While the players went for a team dinner, the rest of the group, including the cheerleaders, pep band, and University staff, found a local grill and bar that was still open — ironically, and perhaps appropriately, it’s called Mooney’s.

The regulars were a bit taken aback when 30 people from University of Richmond poured into it, but soon the realization washed over them. This is no longer just their town. It’s one of a handful of cities serving as college basketball Meccas for the next three weeks. They instantly become warm and inquisitive. “Oh, from Richmond. Oh, the Spiders. Welcome to Buffalo. Good luck this week.” 

In some ways it felt like a normal travel day. A bus, a plane, another bus, a hotel lobby. But upon a little reflection, there are small reminders everywhere of where we were going. A few honks of support on the ride to the airport, as motorists recognized the “Richmond Spiders, A-10 Champions” sign adorning the bus. Well wishes from the captain and crew on the flight. Gracious words of welcome from hotel staff. A giant banner with the NCAA bracket occupying an entire wall in the hotel, with the teams written in by hand.

The first day was primarily about logistics, with the impending tournament, and the game of basketball itself, something out ahead for the Spiders. On the horizon, it gets more real.   

There’s a strange mix of emotions on day one. Perhaps that’s exactly what it should be. You can’t get too hyped yet. It’s not about sustaining the emotion and momentum. It’s about building toward it.