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Thursday, September 28, 2023
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

‘It was a great atmosphere’: fans take in the sights and sounds of March Madness in Buffalo

College basketball’s biggest event of the year draws thousands to KeyBank Center

<p>Head coach Ed Cooley (second from left) and members of the Providence Friars men's basketball team answer questions from the media following the team's 66-57 victory over South Dakota State Thursday.</p>

Head coach Ed Cooley (second from left) and members of the Providence Friars men's basketball team answer questions from the media following the team's 66-57 victory over South Dakota State Thursday.

The first day of March Madness may be the single most exciting 24 hours on the sporting calendar.

That’s why thousands of fans and hundreds of media members flocked to KeyBank Center to watch the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament on Thursday.

With four matchups featuring national heavyweights such as Iowa, UConn, Arkansas and Providence, Buffalo natives were treated to the chaos of “The Big Dance” — right from their backyard.

All four contests came down to the wire and were decided within the game’s final moments, creating a big-game buzz in the Queen City.

“It was a great atmosphere,” Charlie Calieri, a Buffalo native, told The Spectrum. “There are a lot of energetic fans coming from all over the place, so it’s a great time. The exposure for the city is great, more exposure for basketball and Buffalo is huge.”

Fans expressed awe at the performances of college superstars such as Iowa’s Keegan Murray and Arkansas’ Jaylin Williams, whose high-flying dunks and precision passes electrified the crowd.

While UB and St. Bonaventure are both quality mid-major programs, the star power at the KeyBank Center was something Buffalonians don’t typically see.

“It’s really cool to be able to see some of the best players in the country, some that might even go to the NBA, right in your backyard,” Buffalo native Luca Marinucci said.

But it wasn’t only local fans who packed KeyBank.

The atmosphere in Buffalo would have been nothing without the fans who traveled across the country to watch their favorite teams in action.

Shari Jones traveled 1,912 miles from Las Cruces, NM to watch graduate guard Teddy Allen and the No. 12 seed New Mexico State Aggies upset No. 5 seed UConn.

Jones has traveled several times to watch New Mexico State in the NCAA Tournament — the Aggies made the tournament seven out of eight years from 2012 to 2019 — and says Buffalo is one of the more “underrated” tournament sites she’s been to.

“I think Buffalo is just a cool city with some really cool people,” Jones said. “It’s not every day that you can get some of the best wings in the world and watch some of the best basketball in the country all in the same day.”


KeyBank Center in downtown Buffalo played host to NCAA Tournament games Thursday.

Janet and Lee Holter flew into Buffalo from Spirit Lake, IA 20 minutes before the opening tip-off and took an Uber straight to KeyBank Center to catch March Madness.

The couple took a three-and-a-half-hour flight to Buffalo to watch No. 5 seed Iowa face off against their alma mater, No. 12 seed South Dakota State.

“It feels pretty electric,” Lee Holter said before the opening tip-off. “It’s just so great to have a place where basketball fans can come together, have a good time and support their favorite teams.”

The fans weren’t the only ones singing Buffalo’s praises.

Many of the coaches did, too. Providence head coach Ed Cooley — who is familiar with the Buffalo area from duels with Canisius and Niagara while coaching at Fairfield from 2006 to 2011 — said Buffalo is a great site with fantastic energy. He gave a special shout-out to Buffalo Chophouse on Franklin Street.

“I appreciate Buffalo,” Cooley said. “As always, I got some wings in me now. I definitely got some wings in me. Those wings were big-time.”

Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman may have embraced Buffalo more than anybody involved in the NCAA Tournament.

The third-year Razorbacks head coach took his team to Niagara Falls two days ago and sported Buffalo Bills merchandise this week at practice. He also repped clothing of Minor League Baseball’s Buffalo Bisons and the National Lacrosse League’s Buffalo Bandits at practice during the week.

Living in Arkansas, Musselman is no stranger to warm weather. So this week’s weather — mid-60s and sunny — certainly didn’t hurt Mussleman’s ability to get around and experience the city. He says the team has had multiple great meals and claims he “had no idea the food was this good” in Buffalo. 

“That’s part of this thing is what are we going to do? Keep the guys in the hotel?” Musselman said. “We did that last year for what seemed like an eternity in the bubble. We’re the anti-bubble team right now. We’re going to get out. We’re not going to have all of our meals in the hotel. We’re going to go to restaurants and experience different things. It’s the anti-bubble philosophy this year.”

On the court

Thursday was the perfect storm of nail-biting action and shocking upsets.

Of four games at KeyBank Center, two underdogs won and the contests were decided by an average of six points.

Thunderous fan sections packed the stands as the intensity inside KeyBank Center was palpable from the beginning of the day.

Here’s a recap of Thursday’s round one action in Buffalo:

Providence outlasts South Dakota State

The day started with No. 5 seed Providence snapping No. 12 seed South Dakota State’s 16 game winning streak — the longest in the country — in a 66-57 victory.

Graduate guard/forward tandem Al Durham and Noah Horchler each scored 13 points while redshirt junior guard Jared Bynum dropped 12 points to account for 38 of the Friars’ 66 points Thursday afternoon.

The Friars shot 8-of-22 from three, capitalizing in the halfcourt while the Jackrabbits attempted to push the pace.

Sophomore forward Baylor Scheierman finished with 18 points for the Jackrabbits while Friars senior forward Ed Crosswell was an unsung hero on the defensive end with nine rebounds and four steals. 

Richmond upsets Iowa

Graduate guard Jacob Gilyard (24 points, six rebounds and six assists), junior forward Tyler Burton (18 points and 11 rebounds) and graduate forward Nathan Cayo (15 points) powered No. 12 seed Richmond to a 67-63 upset victory over No. 5 seed Iowa — the first major upset of the day. 

Iowa shot just 6-of-29 from three-point range and struggled to hit shots down the stretch while Richmond thrived in the underdog role.

Sophomore forward Keegan Murray — a potential top-10 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft — shot 8-of-15 from the field but wasn’t fed the ball enough at the end of the game to keep the Hawkeyes in it.

While the Spiders celebrated their victory, the game ended in controversy as Iowa’s Kris Murray was clearly hit on the arm on a three-point attempt with under a minute remaining — but no foul was called. The Spiders will face Providence on Saturday.


Redshirt junior guard Teddy Allen (0) scored 37 points to lead New Mexico State to its first NCAA Tournament win since 1993.

Teddy Allen takes the NCAA Tournament by storm

The third game at KeyBank Center will go down in history as “the Teddy Allen game.”

Graduate forward Teddy Allen dropped 37 points to lead No. 12 seed New Mexico State to a 70-63 victory over No. 5 seed UConn. 

Allen hit clutch shot after clutch shot to put UConn away, calling off teammates and scoring in isolation sets on multiple occasions down the stretch.

UConn graduate guard RJ Cole (20 points) attempted to trade buckets with Allen at the end of the game, but the New Mexico State star’s heroics were too great to overcome. Allen shot 10-for-24 from the field, 4-for-7 from three and a perfect 13-for-13 from the free-throw line in an all-around dominant offensive performance.

Thursday’s victory is the Aggies’ first NCAA Tournament win in almost three decades.

They can thank Teddy Allen for that.

Arkansas holds on against Vermont

Senior guards Stanley Umude and JD Notae combined for 38 points and sophomore guard Davonte Davis scored 14 off the bench as No. 4 seed Arkansas held onto a 75-71 victory over No. 13 seed Vermont to close out the action Thursday night.

A back-and-forth affair until the final whistle, senior guard Ben Shungu (8-for-17 from the field) and senior forward Ryan Davis (4-for-5 from three-point range) each scored 20 points to push the Razorbacks deep into the second half.

Vermont steamrolled its way through the American East Tournament but faced a far larger challenge in Arkansas — who made the Elite Eight before losing to eventual champion Baylor last season.

Arkansas sophomore forward Jaylin Williams turned in a balanced performance with 13 points and 10 rebounds to help Arkansas maintain a lead for the final 9:34 of the contest.

The Razorbacks will face Teddy Allen and No. 12 seed New Mexico State in the second round on Saturday.

Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor and can be reached at and @DeCicco42 on Twitter

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Anthony DeCicco is the Editor-in-Chief of The Spectrum. His words have appeared in outlets such as SLAM Magazine In 2020, he was awarded First Prize for Sports Column Writing at the Society of Professional Journalists' Region 1 Mark of Excellence Awards. In his free time, he can be found watching ‘90s Knicks games and reading NFL Mock Drafts at 3 a.m. 



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