An X-treme home court advantage
Published: Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 13:01
It is said that every basketball team has a sixth-man. A person or persons that are as much a part of the team as the five players on the court. For Xavier, this sixth-man
is undoubtedly its student section. Students at Xavier take basketball very seriously and there are a number of Xavier traditions that are deeply rooted in the history of Xavier basketball. Students camp out overnight for tickets to the Crosstown Shootout. They arrive to games hours before tip-off, armed with signs, body paint and cutouts,
among other things. They come prepared with cheers and chants that make Xavier's arena one of the toughest
arenas to face in the country. EA Sports named Cintas
Center the third toughest place to play this past year.
"Our student section always gets pretty excited for
the game. It's really cool walking over from the Commons
two hours before the game, and we're walking over there and seeing a couple hundred students there waiting outside to get in. It's a different feeling," senior center Kenny Frease said. The Musketeers saw their first Cintas Center victory against Miami University on Nov. 18, 2000 and set a standard for Xavier players and fans alike.
Since opening for the 2000-01 season, Cintas Center
averaged 10,035 fans per game prior to this season in an arena that houses 10,250 fans. Before beginning the
2011- 12 season, the Musketeers had won 89.2 percent of their games at home, clearly getting the most out of their self-made home court advantage. "I believe that [the
student section and the players] work together, not in a
direct way. During the game, we feed off of each other.
Dez can have a great dunk and everybody gets excited.
Then three minutes later, the team might not be doing so well and we get them back in the game. It's sort of a give and take," X-treme Fans board member Tim Wilmes said.
So far this season, the Xavier men's basketball team has gone 8-2 at home. While school has been in session, the Musketeers have gone 7-0. "The last game before tip-off, it was so loud and it was really exciting. I think that having the students back brings a different life to the arena," Frease said. Frease believes that Xavier's student section plays a vital role in what goes on at Cintas Center on game days.
"I would think that as an opponent driving up to the Cintas
Center, when you see all those people outside and just the energy around Cintas, I would imagine it would be pretty intimidating. Once we go on one big run, we're going to keep that lead because at that point our fans really get into
the game and make it a really hectic arena we're used to playing in and maybe another team wouldn't be so used to playing in front of 10,000 people that get really loud," Frease said. The student section on any campus can provide a unique advantage for the home team, particularly
at a small Division I school like Xavier. "Being with players in class, seeing them out somewhere, around campus, you take that, and you watch a player in a game and you have that personal connection to that player. Even if you only
said ‘hi' to them, you still have that personal connection when they do something good on the court. Compared
to a bigger school where you're just kind of in the
seats, here you can go watch the players and see them on campus and say ‘hey, good game last week.' I think that's what makes our Xavier student section really special," Wilmes said. In addition to providing an advantage on the court, basketball at Xavier is an opportunity for students
to band together in a new way. "The student section is essential not only to the basketball game itself, but
I really think it brings people together as far as the Xavier community goes. When you think about it, ‘x' amount
of students all coming to one venue, supporting one thing, especially something that's so widely recognized throughout the country as a great basketball program and for everybody to be behind that, and to be so close to that, it really brings people together. It really brings together the
Xavier community, and that's something that can be taken outside of a basketball game," Wilmes said. Xavier basketball games find a way to unite Xavier students from
all across the board. The students interact with the players on the court, the pep band, the cheerleaders, even
the administration, cheering for Father Graham each game,
a Xavier tradition. Among all of the traditions at Xavier, a winning tradition is one of the most legendary. The Musketeers have won 42 straight home games in Atlantic 10 conference play and will be shooting for a 43rd win on Wednesday against St. Joseph's. The Musketeers have also kept the rival Flyers of the University of Dayton winless
in Cintas Center. The Flyers have not left Cincinnati Victorious since Presidency of Jimmy Carter. This inspires a long line of presidential cutouts in the student section each and every time the Flyers make the trip down I-75.
In the student section, students have the unique opportunity to be a part of something greater than themselves— Xavier Nation.