Just over two years ago, the Portland State Vikings basketball squad took on Oregon State, at the Peter W. Stott Center.
I was in attendance. So were Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews.
More importantly, the Stott Center was sold out.
The Stott was rocking that night. The match up against the Beavers was the only Portland State sporting event I have been to in which the venue did not have an open seat. Fans were loud and throwing themselves into a close matchup between two good basketball teams. The Vikings ended up losing a close one, 79-74, but that was beside the point. The atmosphere itself was exciting.
It wasn’t just because a few Blazers showed up; it was because alongside a raucous crowd, the Vikings were able to put out a product on the court that everyone in the arena could get behind. In a game that Portland State was supposed to be outmatched, everyone in the Stott center believed the Vikings could win.
That game did it for me. Basketball games are absolutely the best seat that the Portland State athletic program has to offer. Head coach Tyler Geving has created an atmosphere around the basketball program that offers the students an event that does not try to be anything it is not. No grandstanding or NBA-lite antics, Geving gets his athletes to play exciting college basketball. Basketball that attracts students, alumni and the surrounding community.
I’m a senior, and one of my biggest athletic hopes for Portland State was that I would be able to see them play in the NCAA Tournament before I graduated. They came close, but unfortunately they ran into Damian Lillard in 2011. This year will be their last chance while I’m a student here and even if they don’t do it, the program has more than enough to be proud of over the last four years.
This is more than Oregon Ducks head coach Dana Altman can say. Altman, currently under an investigation due to a sexual assault case involving three of his basketball players, has alienated himself from Duck fans. Sports writers around Oregon have asked whether or not the head coach should be fired, due to his inaction.
The University of Oregon has the big Matthew Knight Arena. They recruit and transfer players. They have had impressive runs in the NCAA Tournament the last few years. But even through all of that, I would not be proud of the program if I was a student in Eugene.
Vikings, don’t try and make too many comparisons to the larger Oregon schools. It’s like comparing street hoops to the NBA, we’re never going to be as flashy as those universities down I-5. But when it comes to play on the court (against the Beavers, for example), the Vikings show they can play. They show themselves as a team you can be proud to support.
The Vikings next home game is on Thursday against Dam Cup rival, Eastern Washington. Tip-off is set for 7:05 pm. Portland State has one more game at home before going on a two game road trip. Portland State already beat a PAC-12 school in USC this season. Let’s see how much farther we can go.