Four of the top five teams in college hoops lost on the road this week. When that happens, students storm courts. Illinois hits a last-second bunny to break a tie with No. 1 Indiana? That's a stormin'. TCU, heretofore winless in the Big 12, never trailed on the way to embarrassing No. 5 Kansas? That's a stormin'. Wisconsin rides a miracle shot to force OT against No. 3 Michigan and then hangs on for the win? You better believe that's a stormin'.
One student body thwarted from a stormin' was the University of Arkansas'. The Hogs abused No. 2 Florida from the opening moments, eventually coasting to an 11-point win. The Gators were the highest-ranked team Arkansas had beaten since 1999, making Arkansas' win on Tuesday the best in living memory for the undergrads in the stands at Bud Walton Arena. The students clearly itched to romp and stomp across the floor; ultimately, security folks held them back and the players instead waded into the delirious student section.
A couple of old-guard sorts on Twitter took the chance to high-five the fun police for keeping the kids in the grandstands to chomp their tortoise-shell cigarette holders and remove their calfskin gloves to clap in fleeting approval.
I'm afraid that Arkansas' students are going to rush the court. I hope they don't. This isn't some podunk university— Hawgs Illustrated (@HImagazine) February 6, 2013
Seriously people I reiterate: DO NOT STORM THE COURT UNLESS YOU WANT ARKANSAS TO BE CONSIDERED ON PAR WITH SUN BELT OR WAC TEAMS— hwsport (@hwsport) February 6, 2013
The message: Act like you've been here before. Except the actual students demonstrably have not. The last time Arkansas beat a higher-ranked team was 1984, against Michael Jordan's No. 1 Tar Heels. Most Arkansas students were about minus-10 years old then. This joy is new to them, and therefore not beneath their dignity.
Who is a court-storming for? Why do it anyway? Is to reflect the self-regard of the athletics department and its acolytes among fans and media? Or is a moment of euphoric catharsis for students who pay thousands of dollars for the right to be there? 'Cause if you're not in that second group, I'm not sure it's your place to decide what the students do with the brief window in their lives in which they feel like storming basketball courts.
A few days ago ESPN's Andy Katz filed an essay that suggested the court-storming has become passé. "Flooding the arena with a surge of humanity was once reserved for special occasions," Katz said. "Now it has become a weekly ritual." This is the view of longtime sports journalists who watch every season from courtside, not the view of college sophomores who painted their face before the game and really ought to be studying for midterms instead of watching HOLY BALLS WE JUST BEAT DUKE CAN YOU FUCKIN' BELIEVE THIS? When Katz says with a sniff that there were eight court-stormings inside a two-week period this year, we are to assume there could not be, in a country of 300-something million people, eight separate occasions that rise to the designation of "special" for the participants. Yet the tens of thousands of people who stormed courts in that span would respectfully disagree.
So here's your foolproof rubric for whether or not you, dear college basketball fan, should storm the court. Storm if and only if you can answer yes to this list of questions:
—Did your team just upset a current top-5 team or the reigning national champion, or did you just win a conference championship?
—Do you and a critical mass of fellow fans feel like storming the court?
If you answered "yes" to all of these (or, really, the second one alone is fine), you should storm the court. You will not get many chances. Just, when you do, try not to grievously injure anyone. Pretend that you've been there before, as you may never get the chance again.