Where does the time go during March Madness? It’s getting difficult to study and write notes with a pen when my guns are always up after a win. 

My brain seems to mirror the Red Raiders’ shutdown defense in tournament play, shutting down my concentration along with any chance I have of getting work done. I can yell “Raider!” at 4 a.m. thinking I’m alone in the library and someone somewhere behind a musty bookshelf still will answer with an enthusiastic “Power!” in response. 

It’s 2 a.m. and freezing on a Sunday morning outside the United Supermarkets Arena after a win against Gonzaga, I’m hoping to get a selfie with Davide Moretti, and the Texas Tech Red Raiders are in the Final Four for the first time in history.

On a windy day this week in the Hub City, the flat roads seem to carry the sweet sound of the “Matador Song” everywhere I go, heard either faintly in the distance or as loud as the car blasting through speakers and subwoofers stopped next to me at the stop light where Texas Tech Parkway meets Indiana Avenue. 

On a Monday, the “Fight Song” breaks out in a performance by the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra as an audience claps and cheers in hope for a basketball team they love.

I’m in a city that lives, breathes and loves Tech, a college campus centered at its heart. In a city like this, on days like this, a dribbled ball at the local high school carries a greater weight of importance. A well-timed screen and a lay-up in Maxey Park between friends feels like the game-winning play. 

A hometown hero in Jarrett Culver lighting up the court, every living room, every restaurant and bar in the city — a local boy center-staged on national television — brings more meaning to a place like Lubbock than most college teams probably will ever know. 

It’s 10:15 p.m. on a Monday, I’m too busy re-watching all of coach Chris Beard’s Fireside Chats to study, and the Texas Tech Red Raiders are in the Final Four for the first time in history.

It’s difficult to get to class navigating a sea of red and black Elite Eight or Final Four shirts, an assortment of Red Raider gear sprawling across campus. There isn’t a conversation without excitement over basketball, whispers and chatter, the ringing of the Victory Bells still vibrating through the air. 

A professor slows his speech at the end of class, adjusts his tie to look forward and announce Friday’s lecture is cancelled because, “by God” he’s going to the Final Four. At a chapel filled with students, a priest discusses the need to avoid distractions from God, while he himself breaks from service to ask God to “bless the Red Raiders” as they make their way to Minneapolis. 

It’s 5 p.m. on Tuesday, I can’t stop thinking about the Red Raiders rushing into the locker room after their Saturday win, Chris Beard with the game-winning net around his neck and the entire team dancing to the song “Old Town Road.” 

I'm gonna take my horse to the old town road,

I'm gonna ride 'til I can't no more,

 I got the horses in the back,

and the Red Raiders are in the Final Four (for the first time in history).

Even with the weight of a city, a campus, its passionate Red Raider students and alumni, there’s no pressure to be felt on a team entering new territory in the Final Four. It’s pure joy, excitement, Saddle Tramps stamping and ringing bells as Raider Red stands straight throwing to the crowd Guns Up with both hands. 

It’s Matt Mooney with his assists, Davide Moretti with his threes, Tariq Owens with blocks, Norense Odiase with his dunks and Culver with his, well, everything. 

And all the while it’s Beard leading the way — with the intensity, the humor, the trust of a father figure to the team, to his young girls, to a college campus, to a city, to Red Raider Nation. 

It’s 7:30 a.m. at the United Supermarkets Arena parking lot on Wednesday, I’m with hundreds of fans waiting to send off our beloved team, and the Red Raiders are in the Final Four for the first time in history. 

Wreck ‘em, Tech.

Eleanor Guinan, Texas Tech men’s basketball beat writer, contributed to this column.

 

 

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