From the outside, the Pit is an ordinary-looking single story building, looking more like an electronics superstore than one of the most notorious gyms in the country.
When you walk inside, however, the reason for the court's nickname becomes immediately obvious. The arena is literally a pit, with the concourse at the top of the bleachers at ground level, and the playing floor far below.
One of the striking features of the facility is "the tunnel." The teams' locker rooms are located near ground level. A long, steep tunnel leads downward to the court.
In case a visiting team forgets where they are, the wall of the tunnel reminds them, "Welcome to THE PIT, a mile high and loud as ......"
Since there's only one tunnel to connect the locker rooms to the court, both teams enter and exit the court through the same tunnel, unlike in the SEC where the home and visiting teams always use different entrances to the court.
The most famous game in the "The Pit" was probably the 1983 Men's Championship game, when Jim Valvano's North Carolina State Wolfpack completed their Cinderella run by defeating Houston in the national championship game.
Jen Risper and Tina Wirth were the players who represented Vanderbilt in the pre-tournament press conference. Since Jen is from southern California and Tina is from Arizona, they both were glad the team was sent to Albquerque, because it will be easier for the families to come to the games.
Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb talked about how much her team has improved over the season, having a "starting seven", her freshman point guard Jence Rhoads, and the task of defending Montana's 3-point shooters.
After the press conference, it was time for the NCAA-mandated open practice. When the team left the locker room and waited at the top of the tunnel for their scheduled time to enter the court, they couldn't resist playing around. Liz Sherwood tried sliding down the steep ramp.
Video coordinator Clare Droesch tried rolling down the tunnel, like kids roll down a grassy hillside.
,Finally, it was time for practice. Since the practices are open to everybody, most teams use them as a glorified shoot-around, given the players a chance to get used to the gym.
Hannah Tuomi and Tina Wirth
Rebecca Silinski (shootoing), Amy Malo, Tina Wirth, and Chanel Chisholm
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Photos copyright 2008 by Whitney D for VandyMania.com