Following the fans

RALEIGH, NC-It wasn't a record turnout for the cardinal and navy, but some Arizona fans did make the cross-country trip to support their hoop troops.

I spoke with many different Arizona fans from all over the country. A couple from Sierra Vista made the game, and they were in high spirits before the tipoff. Cloaked in red and blue, this was a big event in their lives.

I also talked to Channing Frye's parents. Not surprisingly, the Fryes endured a long flight from Phoenix.

"We have some family out here and more will be coming," said Tom Frye. "We need to come out and play as a team, but we can win this game."

Like all Arizona fans, the Frye's were in high spirits entering the game.

A graduate of Arizona and a Rutgers Law student made the seven-hour drive from New England.

"I think we'll win," she said. "I am wearing my lucky hat."

Unfortunately, her lucky hat could not bring enough luck to the team.

I met a fan from Atlanta who came with four other members of that city's Alumni Club. Another long drive, another disappointed fan.

Lastly I talked to former Arizona basketball player George Rountree. There have obviously been many changes from the time that Rountree played for the Cats in the 1950s.

"It's played above the rim," said Rountree, who owns a law firm in Wilmington, NC. "It's played at a much faster pace. The athletes are better. The players jump higher. They shoot better."

Roundtree was in a positive mood but noted, "we need to keep our focus."

Every Arizona fan was in very high spirits when the game started. Whether or not they made a short drive to the games, or flew across the country, the attitude was the same…

"We can win this game."

When the Wildcats collapsed, fans in attendance were left in a state of shock. Up 14 points, most of them were already looking ahead to Duke and wondering if the Cats had an upset in them. A half hour later they were stunned, and many scrambled to change travel plans or figure out what to do with their weekend. Many were frustrated, angry and a tad bit bitter.

Despite the bad feelings, all of the fans had the same sentiment.

"Wait until next year."

The final buzzer had barely gone off and already the Wildcat faithful were regrouping for '05.

Photo by Carl F. Shifflette III

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