3/18/21 NCAA Tournament First Four, Drake vs Wichita State

Drake and Wichita State warm up in Mackey arena ahead of their game. Both teams are playing the first NCAA tournament game at Mackey this year. 

For the first time in over a year, hundreds of fans cheered as a team took to the court in Mackey Arena — though the stands were packed not with the usual black and gold, but with various hues of blue, yellow and green. 

"In 49 states it's just basketball," an NCAA hype video echoed.

"But this is Indiana."

Fans huddled together by team for organized cheers and did not hesitate to boo their opponent during starting lineups before Thursday night's First Four games between Drake-Wichita State and UCLA-Michigan State.

People hollered for 3-pointers and dunks and screamed to try to distract players during free throws. Fans of Drake University were particularly vocal during the first game of the night, but especially when a referee made a call they didn't like.

"It's like getting excited again about being on the big stage," Dolph Pulliam said about watching his alma mater play in the tournament.

A former Drake player, Pulliam played in the 1969 Final Four against UCLA, a team that went on to beat Purdue in the championship game.

"Drake University on a stage like this is so important for us, to show how good we are," Pulliam said.

Fans cheered their teams on to victory in person as Drake beat Wichita State, 53-52, after falling into large point deficits in both halves.

All fans were cleared out between games so workers could clean the arena. An even more passionate group of fans for UCLA and fellow Big Ten team Michigan State was then ushered in.

While the UCLA starters were announced, Michigan State fans fell into a cheer of "Who cares? You suck!" for each name read.

Those Spartan fans became quiet when the Bruins came back to win in overtime, 86-80. There was a mad dash of dark green exiting the arena when one MSU fan felt the need to yell at his own team for "sucking." Another Spartan fan matched that energy by screaming at him.

Even though Purdue didn't play in Mackey Thursday night, Boilermakers still showed up, going by the familiar black and gold that broke up the sea of colors in the stands.

It was not just Purdue fans who crashed the party, though. Fans of Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Alabama, Indiana and Brigham Young were spotted among the crowd.

"It's a great experience and I'm just super excited to have an opportunity to come to the games," said Marissa Davide, a Purdue sophomore in the College of Engineering.

Purdue plays North Texas in its first game of the tournament at 7:25 p.m. tonight at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

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