Get ready for an influx of orange.
As anticipated, the Syracuse Orange will be in Buffalo on Thursday for the NCAA tournament. They’re scheduled to play the Western Michigan Broncos.
If this year’s anything like the last time Syracuse played the tournament here, thousands of fans will make the short drive along Interstate 90 to cheer on their team.
“When we heard it was Buffalo we cheered. We were very excited it’s so close,” said Ben Glidden, president of Otto’s Army, a student fan organization at Syracuse University. “A two-hour trip to Buffalo is nothing compared to something like last year, when it was on the West Coast. Buffalo is very doable.”
Glidden hosted about 60 students at an invite-only viewing party to watch the unveiling of the NCAA basketball bracket.
He also will work with the university’s student union to organize several buses and cars to carry hundreds of current Syracuse University students to Buffalo for the game.
“When we get there, people know we’re there,” Glidden said. “We have multiple buses. Tons of students, loud, clad in orange, start piling off and heading toward the arena, just tons and tons of students.”
Glidden said fans will meet up with the local Syracuse University alumni group before heading to the arena.
Syracuse University will send thousands of emails to current and former students, listing the Pan-American Grill & Brewery on Washington Street as the official alumni and fan headquarters.
With 2,500 Syracuse University graduates in Western New York alone, and with thousands more expected to head here for the game, the restaurant is expecting a robust turnout.
“We get loud, we get crazy,” said Shayla McCullough-Collins, president of the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Western New York. “We’re definitely pretty passionate. If you ask any of them, they’ll tell you they bleed orange.”
Fans are expected to filter in and out all day. Several Syracuse University dignitaries are expected to make an appearance – the school’s chancellor and athletic director both showed up in years past. Fans attending the game are expected to stop in, with non-ticket holders expected to stay behind and watch the game on TV. Most of the festivities will happen on the first floor, with the option to open upstairs rooms as the place fills up.
Indeed, there is plenty of local love for Syracuse. Perry’s Ice Cream teamed up with a 2012 Syracuse University graduate to create an ice cream flavor called “Otto’s Cupcake,” named after the school’s mascot.
Also headed to Buffalo are legions of Ohio fans, with the Ohio State Buckeyes playing the Dayton Flyers. The Villanova Wildcats of Pennsylvania will take on the Milwaukee Panthers and the University of Connecticut Huskies will play St. Joseph’s Hawks of Pennsylvania.
While no one knew for sure who would be playing in Buffalo until the teams were announced Sunday night, analysts expected Syracuse and Villanova to be among them, considering the schools’ proximity to the Queen City and Syracuse’s large alumni base throughout New York State.
The six games scheduled for Thursday and Saturday in First Niagara Center mark the fifth time since 2000 that the governing body for intercollegiate athletics has chosen Buffalo as a tournament host.