Julia Sokolohorsky put green dye in her red hair, painted her face green and wore a huge homemade sign bordered with a green boa Sunday to Siena College’s NCAA Basketball Selection Show party. Sokolohorsky was one of nearly 1,000 Siena basketball fans who filled the bleachers at the college’s athletic complex to root on the MAAC champions as they found out where they would fall in the NCAA tournament.
Fans treated the party the same way they would a game. They dressed in green and gold, waved pompoms and signs and yelled for their favorite players. Kyle Ketcham, 19, a Siena sophomore, along with five of his friends, painted their chests with red letters that spelled “Saints” the same way they do at each home game.
Ketcham and his friends were trying to win tickets to the tournament, but that honor went to Sokolohorsky for her efforts.
“I’m so excited,” Sokolohorsky said. An avid Siena basketball fan, Sokolohorsky said she never missed a home game this season.
While the party was fun for students, it was also a good way for former students to connect. At least half the fans in attendance Sunday were alumni.
Joel Keens, a 1994 graduate of Siena College, said he loves Siena basketball and uses games and other basketball-related gatherings as an excuse to get together with other alumni.
“Siena has a tight alumni network as evidenced by the fact that in a school of 3,000, the average attendance at basketball games is 7,000,” he said.
The NCAA tournament selection show began at 6 p.m. on a large screen in the middle of the gym, and fans watched patiently as the Saints were passed over in the Midwest, West and East regions. The Siena College Pep Band, cheerleaders and dance team kept the energy up through commercial breaks.
The gym erupted as the announcement was made that Siena, seeded 13th, would be playing fourth-seeded Purdue Friday in Spokane, Wash., as part of the South regional.
Norman Chambers of Loudonville runs basketball camps at the college and has gotten to know the players and head coach Fran McCaffrey. He said he thinks the Saints have a tough game ahead of them playing a Big 10 school, but are in a good position.
“Fran prepares these boys so well that they could play any team in the country right now,” he said.
After the announcement, thoughts turned to how fans would make it across the country to cheer on the team.
Kristin Corminati, 21, a Siena College senior who plays saxophone in the Pep Band, is one of the lucky students who gets to attend the tournament courtesy of the college.
While Washington will do, Corminati said, she would have preferred to go to San Jose, Calif.
Chuck McGaffin of Ballston Lake, a Siena College graduate who is now retired, said he attended 30 of the basketball team’s 33 games this season. McGaffin said he is going to try to get to Spokane, but it depends on airline prices.
“If I can get a reasonable flight and use frequent flier miles, I’m going to go,” he said.
Siena College receives 550 tickets to the tournament, according to Mary Beth Finnerty, director of alumni relations. About 300 tickets are left over after the players and their families, coaches and staff get tickets.
Typically, the remaining tickets are reserved for prominent alumni and donors, Finnerty said. Her job is organizing everyone so there is a good Siena College presence at the game.
“Even though we were outnumbered in Ohio,” she said about last year’s tournament, “I heard we were the loudest.”