DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Basketball fans from across the country are descending upon the city of Dayton, Ohio, ahead of tonight’s First Four tipoff. UD Arena has been buzzing with activity since around 10 a.m. this morning.
Fans, friends, and families are ready to soak up every single moment of this tournament, and that excitement extends well-beyond the games themselves.
Kenika Sharpe and her entire North Carolina Central family are on a whirlwind trip, and this isn’t their first time traveling to Dayton for the First Four.
“We went to the selection show. Then we got back up Monday morning and came right here,” she said.
For Bison fans making the trip from North Dakota, Ohio itself was a change in scenery.
Fan Suzanne Brown told 2 NEWS, “When we were pulling in, one of the little boys we are traveling with said, ‘There’s grass! Why is there grass?’ We haven’t seen grass in six or seven months.”
Visiting fans were also shocked at the reception they got at area hotels.
“The welcome at the hotel was incredible. There were bagpipes, hotel workers cheering, welcome signs and treats for the kids and players. It has been great,” says Brown.
The First Four tends to be a unique blend of household schools and teams trying to make a name for themselves, and that in itself brings fans from all over.
“I’m a basketball junkie,” says Chris Kalb, who traveled from Lexington, Kentucky. “I like it because I’ve been to the Final Four, but the First Four you get to interact with the players and coaches. I enjoy that.”
Tipoff is set for 6:40 p.m.