Opinion: Fan-tastic Showing

It is a rare occasion where I will tolerate, let alone enjoy, being wrong in any circumstance. Yet this week, I wanted the Idaho men’s basketball fans to be right.

On paper, the Washington State Cougars looked like the team that was set up to win the annual Battle of the Palouse. The Cougars recently won the Wooden Legacy Tournament after defeating No. 21 Saint Mary’s and San Diego State and moved into a 6-1 record. For the first time in a long time, the neighbors received votes for an AP top-25 appearance.

Washington State had the stats on its side and a resume to prove its skill set in the early weeks of college basketball.

No matter how thoroughly one knows a team, memorize its statistics, learns how to compare them to the opponent, no one will ever believe like a fan does. Maybe that is just what the Vandals needed Wednesday night —  a packed Cowan Spectrum full of fans ready to cheer Idaho to victory.

This is not to say Idaho’s epic defacing of the Cougs was due solely due to an enthusiastic (and at times brash) crowd — any team that hits 63.6 percent from the floor and 56 from deep only benefits from fan energy, but is not made from it.

Nonetheless it is always refreshing to see a packed house for a program that is not always the most supported by its own fans outside of social media.

Even during the closing weeks of the semester, students and fans flooded the Cowan Spectrum in what was one of the largest crowds ever at 4,329 people. Armored with brash signs and blown up photos of the athletes faces, the crowd brought a new life to the Spectrum.

“The crowd was awesome,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. “The video boards were up, you know it’s amazing when we get people in this building how electric it is and how much better we play when there is a full house and I appreciate our administration and the fans for coming out tonight and doing a good job helping the Vandals win.”

Senior guard Victor Sanders said there is more to the longest running rivalry west of the Mississippi River than just the Vandals vs the Cougars.

“When you play in this game it is the whole state of Idaho behind you versus the whole state of Washington and when it’s at home you feel the energy, feel the love, you know. I think that’s what helped us to, you know. It’s a packed house you can’t have nothing but goose bumps and excitement because that is what the game’s about.”

The excitement around the 2017-2018 Idaho men’s basketball season began well before the stomping of the Cougs, it began well before the team even took the first tipoff of the season. There is something special about this team and the season ahead of them, and that feeling was exemplified Wednesday.

Visions of the team winning the Big Sky became a little clearer and dreams of a potential No. 16 seed knocking off a No. 1 for the first time in history became a little more vivid. After all, it is never too early to start dreaming.

Yet eight games into the season and it is impossible to predict the future. All anyone can do is continue to show up and show out until the very end, wherever that end maybe.

Meredith Spelbring can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu or on twitter @mere0415


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