Virginia hosted ESPN’s “College GameDay” for the No. 3 Cavaliers’ matchup against No. 7 North Carolina on Saturday and the fans at John Paul Jones Arena brought their sign game. They’re veterans at this now, having hosted the traveling Saturday pregame show for the first time last season. But the novelty hasn’t worn off — fans were up bright and early when gates to the arena opened at 9 a.m. Saturday, two hours before “GameDay” airs and 9 1/2 hours before tip-off against the Tar Heels.
At the end of Saturday’s broadcast, “GameDay” host Rece Davis said the crowd was the most responsive the basketball version of the show has had in its 12-year run.
“That’s the cool thing for us, we love the energy and excitement, but when you have a crowd that’s engaged in the show and they react to what you do, it gives you a little adrenaline surge. Smart kids, at this school, obviously, they listened, they were engaged, polite, respectful, clever — and they were loud. They were loud at the right times.”
Davis compared the fans to some of biggest crowds to appear on “GameDay” – including the 23,000 that once packed into Rupp Arena at Kentucky – even though fans filled just about two-thirds of John Paul Jones.
“But as great as that [Kentucky] crowd was, as great as our Kansas, Michigan State crowds are, you can’t beat what we’ve experienced here in the past two years,” Davis said.
“I don’t like to rank crowds … but I’m so old now, I don’t care if people get mad. If they get mad, be better than Virginia.”
On to the festivities:
Virginia football’s new coaching staff, including Coach Bronco Mendenhall, met fans in line to hand out breakfast.
But it’s the signs inside the arena that count, and there were some good ones. There were a lot of refererences to North Carolina’s far-reaching academic scandal:
But this one takes the cake.
Duke’s Grayson Allen was one of the more popular targets, despite playing for the wrong team from North Carolina. “Does Grayson Allen travel or does he just like trips?” one fan wondered. “Grayson Allen Wears Crocs,” another accused. “GameDay” host Rece Davis and analysts Seth Greenberg, Jay Williams and Jay Bilas spent the first portion of the show discussing Allen’s penchant for tripping opponents.
There were plenty of “Daaaaang [Insert Virginia player name]” signs and of course, a plethora of posters about Tony Bennett’s D that are too inappropriate for this blog. Virginia seniors Anthony Gill and Malcolm Brogdon got lots of love with signs like “King of the Gill,” “Brogdon the Dragon,” and one poster that referenced Gill’s upcoming nuptials: “AG, Can I Be Your Flower Girl?” Senior Mike Tobey and freshman Jarred Reuter had their admirers, too, with at least two “Reuter? I barely know her!” signs. Okay, I guess that’s not too inappropriate for this blog.
Snapchat even created a special “GameDay” filter — for Evan Nolte, the senior who, unfortunately, was in a walking boot earlier this week because of a toe injury and might not play Saturday. Hope he at least took a screenshot.