Throughout the past two days – from mentions by national and international media outlets such as USA Today and French television’s Ma Chaîne Sport, and conversations across Facebook and Twitter – support for the University of Connecticut basketball teams raged.
Just minutes after Sunday’s upset victory by the UConn men’s basketball team against Michigan State, the drumbeat began, building to a crescendo that accelerated when the women’s team took the floor against Texas A&M Monday, with the expected outcome. Both wins clinched the Huskies spots in the Final Four.
Shortly after the end of the men’s game, the UConn Huskies’ official twitter account set off a viral response when it sent out a message directed at President Barack Obama. Obama had picked the fourth-seeded Spartans to beat the seventh-seeded Huskies on the road to winning the national championship.
Sorry about busting your bracket @BarackObama… We have room on our bandwagon if you're interested
— UConn Huskies (@UConnHuskies) March 30, 2014
Within the next 24 hours, more than 12,000 people had amplified out that message on their own feeds, and comedian Jimmy Fallon spoofed the tweet on The Tonight Show.
The Huskies 69-54 point victory over the Aggies last night did not require the same response; Obama had picked the Connecticut women’s team to win the national tournament.
And Obama wasn’t the only politician whose interest in March Madness was played out in social media.
Sunday, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy tweeted, “Wow! What an amazing win for @UConnMBB! Onto the @FinalFour! U-C-O-N-N, UConn, UConn, UConn!” Last night, he followed up by declaring the women’s basketball players “rock stars.”
There were live tweets throughout the games, as fans watching in person and on television marked each highpoint. Kristine Nowak, UConn associate professor of communication, likened that to fans virtually surrounding themselves with friends and family.
“People now feel that when their phones are there, their friends are there,” said Nowak, who studies the use of social media and new technologies. “They are bringing their friends along with them.
“There is a joke that if it’s not on Twitter or Facebook, it didn’t happen,” she added.
Judging by the umpteen celebratory messages across social media from fans far and near, the wins most certainly did happen.
“From underdog to Top Dawg!” Derek O’Brien of Chaplin, Conn. posted on Facebook about the men’s team.
In the early hours on Tuesday, Loretta Boucher Michaud posted, “Just love my UConn girls. Stayed up way past my bedtime to watch the game and still got up at 4:15 this morning!! That’s how much I love this team.”
Since 1982, when the NCAA began the women’s basketball tournament, of the 10 times when the men’s and women’s basketball teams from the same university made it to the Final Four, UConn’s teams did it three times – in 2004, 2009, and 2011. This year is the fourth.
Only the Huskies ended with dual championships, in 2004. Last year, both Louisville teams made it to the championship game but only the men’s team won. UConn beat the women’s team.
The fervor surrounding the University’s successes on the court does not seem to be waning. USA Today even temporarily included the UConn Husky logo in its online masthead.
The publicity has also caught the attention of businesses marketing on social media. A Hartford-area restaurant noted that the road to the championship would continue at its locale on Saturday, where there would be a viewing party of the men’s game against Florida in Dallas, Texas. A Dallas-area hotel company welcomed fans to its accommodations.
Additional congratulations on social media came from businesses that had a natural connection, such as a major manufacturer of hardwood basketball flooring, and a less obvious one – Connecticut Magazine, which attributed the men’s win to “maple syrup karma.”
But the wins were most deeply felt by the fans. On Facebook, Laura Signor of Rocky Hill, Conn., remembered her late mother. “There’s an angel in heaven rooting for the men and women. Sing the Fight Song, Mom!”