In regular season, there are typically five players on the court at all times. In the stands, however, that number grows to the hundreds, as Tennessee fans travel to support the team.
The Vols’ Sweet Sixteen appearance is no different. Fans are taking their love for the orange and white on the road to be sure KFC Yum Center becomes a “sea of orange“, in the words of one fan.
“This season, but really last season, and the two before, since Coach Barnes has been here, have just been wonderful seasons because first of all, the basketball is really fun to watch and secondly, you can’t help but pull for these guys,“ said Doug Reynolds, a 20-year men’s basketball season ticket holder.
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Reynolds says he’s watched seasons with five wins, and seasons with 30, but this year “feels different“ and other fans agree.
“It’s just a great experience, we’re students right now at the University of Tennessee and it’s just great to be at UT and be part of this great history,“ said Rachel Hurley.
Other fans say they traveled as a family, generations of Tennessee fans – just to watch the Vols in person.
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“I love Tennessee as much as my sister does, we go to all the games, all the home games, some of the away ones. We just want to see them go as far as they can,“ said Robin Maddux.
Other fans live in a house divided, Tennessee versus Purdue.
“I picked Tennessee to win it all, in my bracket,“ said Bill Evans. His wife, Laura, a Purdue fan, also picked Tennessee to win.
Alumni and fans met before tip-off at the Downtown Marriott in Louisville for a pep rally, sending the Vols off to the arena with “Rocky Top“ and cheers.
The pep rally featured Tennessee’s mascot, Smokey, and The Pride of the Southland marching band.
Many fans say this they’ve made the trip to experience their inaugural Big Game because they believe in Tennessee could go further.