For many college basketball teams, no one would blame them if their first arrival at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis this week played out a little like the famous scene from the movie Hoosiers.
In the classic 1986 sports movie, small-town high school basketball players enter with wide eyes and in awe of the large college arena where they’ll be playing for the state championship. Their coach, played by Gene Hackman, puts them at ease when he pulls out a tape measure to prove that, on the court itself, no dimensions are different from their small gym back home.
Some might think that going from the Teague Center, where ACU played its home games this season with Moody Coliseum under renovation, to Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, would be a little overwhelming. But players don’t seem intimidated by the moment ahead of the team’s first-round matchup against The University of Texas at Austin at 8:50 p.m. CDT Saturday.
“This will be a good statement for us on the biggest stage,” senior center Kolton Kohl said matter-of-factly Tuesday.
Biggest stage, indeed.
Lucas Oil Stadium can hold about 67,000 screaming fans during a typical Colts football game. For the NCAA Tournament, there will be a court set up on each end of the field with a curtain running down the 50-yard line. Even splitting the stadium in two will do little to change the fact that it is a large venue for a basketball game.
For comparison, Hinkle Fieldhouse – Butler University’s arena in Indianapolis and the site of several other NCAA Tournament games this year – is the actual filming location of that famous scene from Hoosiers. Capacity at that cathedral of basketball that elicited those wide-eyed looks from the fictional boys from Hickory, Indiana, has been reduced to hold only 9,100 in present day.
The largest venue the Wildcats visited this season was Bud Walton Arena at the University of Arkansas with a capacity of 19,368. Even UT’s Frank Erwin Center holds just 16,540.
Of course, there won’t be a fan in every seat at this year’s NCAA Tournament games. COVID-19 safety precautions will cap attendance at 25% capacity. But that won’t stop the Wildcats from enjoying their moment on the big stage – and in a big venue.
“We’ve got six or seven guys in that locker room now that have already played in the NCAA Tournament. They have experience,” ACU head coach Joe Golding (’99) said. “I think our guys understand what’s coming.”
No tape measure necessary.
Follow the Wildcats during March Madness at acu.edu/champions.