SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — March Madness has arrived in Sacramento as eight teams are in town looking to make it to the Final Four.
The official tip-off is at 11 a.m. when Oregon takes Iona in the first of Friday’s three games at the Golden 1 Center. But fans have already kicked-off with watch parties and prep rallies around the city.
Oregon Ducks fans held a prep rally at New Helvetia Brewing Company, along with the team’s cheerleaders, even a special appearance by The Duck – the school’s mascot. They are hoping the ducks dominate tournament play in Sacramento.
“It was devastating the past couple of years. But despite the injuries, I think we will still be able to perform really, really well,” said Josh Cleaver, an Oregon Ducks fan dressed in the team’s green and yellow.
Ducks fans are no stranger to NCAA play. This is the team’s fifth straight appearance in the tournament. But this time, they are looking for a win. And they are getting a big endorsement from an Arik Armstead, an Oregon alum, a Sacramento-area native and who now plays pro-ball with the San Francisco 49ers.
“I think they can get deep into the tournament. I am excited to watch and see how they do,” said Armstead, a defensive end for the 49ers.
Meanwhile, back at the Golden 1 Center, Thursday was open practice for the eight teams here to compete. While the teams practiced their shots, the doors were open to fans and the school bands to come out and take in all of the madness.
“I’m a basketball fan, and this kinda a once in a life thing,” said Lexie Simpson, a young basketball fan, who came to watch the players practice with other her young siblings.
“First time, never been to Golden 1 Center. The building is spectacular. The atmosphere is fabulous. It’s college basketball at its best!” said basketball fan Tim Blane, in town for the tournament.
For 10-year-old Rodney Shead, it was a chance to get some autographs and to pick up some skills to help improve his game. “I am able to pick up handles and how they shoot. And the range, and the form,” shared Shead.
Sacramento was twice denied the chance to host the Big Dance. This opportunity is not just a win for the city, but basketball fans, as well, says Chris Granger, the President of the Sacramento Kings. “I think this is one of the great sporting events in the world. To get up close, close to the practices, and to take part in something a cool as March Madness it’s great for Sacramento. And great for our fans!” said Granger.
And it’s not just about Sacramento. The UC Davis men’s basketball team is also making basketball history of their own. It’s their first time making it into the NCCA tournament. They won their first game on Wednesday against North Carolina Central University. They take on top-seed Kansas Friday in Tulsa.