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Posted: Tuesday January 27, 2009 1:47PM; Updated: Tuesday January 27, 2009 1:58PM

Mythbusters: Stop storming the court

By Jacob E. Osterhout

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Wake Forest fans didn't care about how much season was left when they stormed the court after the Demon Deacons upset North Carolina two week ago.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

In college basketball, when the home team wins a big game, possibly even an upset, the student section storms the court in celebration. It's one of those unique college basketball traditions that bring the fans and players together in a moment of spontaneous jubilation.

The students love it. The TV cameras love it. The winning players love it. It seems like everyone loves storming the court -- except me.

I don't want to be a scrooge, but it's time to put an end to one of the most sacred myths in college basketball:

It's okay to storm the court after EVERY big win.

Storming the court is a special and meaningful act that should be utilized only after monumental wins. If students flood the court after every victory, the ritual loses its significance.

You would know what I am talking about if you watched Wake Forest beat North Carolina 92-89 back on Jan. 11 in Winston Salem. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Demon Deacon student section, clad in their trademark black and yellow tie-dyed shirts, flooded the basketball court in celebration.

Everyone seemed so happy (well, except for Roy Williams and his players,) but as I watched in disbelief, all I could think of was, "Really? The season's not even halfway over and you're already storming the court?"

It seemed like a complete overreaction by the fans. At the time, North Carolina was ranked third in the nation while Wake Forest was fourth. Sure, the Tar Heels started off the season as the unanimous preseason No. 1 team in the country, but they entered Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum having lost to Boston College just one week earlier. Wake Forest, on the other hand, still hadn't lost a game and was coming off an impressive 94-87 victory over BYU in Provo.

Don't get me wrong, Wake Forest's first victory over North Carolina since 2005 was big, but it deserved a standing ovation more than a storming of the court. The Tar Heels are good, but so is Wake Forest and when the students rejoice in such an excessive manner it actually demonstrates how little faith they originally had in their team. The theory goes that if you celebrate your team's victory as a rare occurrence, then it will most likely stay that way.

That's why fans of most big time programs rarely storm the floor. They are used to their teams winning. You just don't see Duke or Kansas or UCLA or Kentucky fans jumping up and down on the court after a big win unless something truly amazing happens (i.e., Duke beating Virginia Tech on Sean Dockery's half court shot in 2005.)

Now, I'm not saying that students should never storm the court. I'm not wholeheartedly against the practice like some safety freaks or basketball puritans or the SEC, which fines its schools if their fans participate in such degenerate behavior. I just believe that there is an appropriate time to pile out of the bleachers.

The stakes have to be high or the upset monumental or the ending dramatic. When NJIT snaps its 51-game losing streak, then the Highlander fans can bum rush the court. When VMI beats Kentucky, then the Keydet fans can charge the security guards. When Cleveland State beats Syracuse on a last second half court shot, then the Viking fans can jump the press table and do the lambada at the foul line. (Of course, neither VMI nor Cleveland State fans rushed the floor since both upsets were away games, but the scheduling discrepancies in college basketball are for another article.)

Storming the floor is not an exploit that should be taken lightly. It's not cool or fun or something you can brag about to your girlfriend. It's a complicated act that is both spontaneous and well thought out. When executed at the right moment, it can be the perfect conclusion to an unexpectedly amazing outcome. When performed at the wrong moment, though, it's like a touchdown dance with props -- excessive, meaningless and utterly unconvincing.

I understand we are dealing with college students in a hectic environment where dealing with the nuances of storming the court can be tough. But this is the future generation of America and we've got to trust them to make the right decision. So, on Thursday, if No. 4 Wake Forest beats No. 1 Duke, will the Demon Deacon students storm the court, or will they use their basketball acumen and save the celebration for when it truly matters?

 
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