In college basketball, the idea of the “sixth man” is omnipresent. Where one player’s ability may be lacking, the slack can easily be picked up by a rowdy crowd of college students decked out in their school’s colors and memorabilia.
Turn on any major NCAA basketball game today, and the rumble and roar of student sections at college basketball’s blue blood institutions will reverberate through the speakers. The Michigan State Spartans have The Izzone, the Indiana Hoosiers have the Crimson Guard and the San Diego State Aztecs have the always-theatrical SDSU Show.
Albion College has its own student hype zone: the Kresge Krazies.
The Kresge Krazies have been a tradition of the historic Kresge Gymnasium for decades and are no stranger to the Albion College community. In past seasons, the Krazies have even been linked to the Britons’ winning ways. Reflecting in light of his 2013 season, men’s basketball player Travell Oakes described the Krazies as an integral component to the team’s success.
The section itself is comprised of a diverse, often-changing range of Albion students. Athletic teams are often encouraged to arrive in masses and have made their presence known at recent games. Greek organizations have even made a strong showing, too, with events being held at games to see which house has the largest attendance.
For the players, though, the student section plays a different role. The noise and hype is fun for fans, but to play in the midst of it makes for an entirely different game than with a silent crowd.
Shelby Township junior Caden Ebeling, a forward for the men’s basketball team, views student sections like the Krazies as an advantage.
“The student section has for sure created a competitive and difficult atmosphere for opposing teams to come in to Kresge and play us,” said Ebeling. “The louder they are, the harder it is for other teams to relay play calls, and [the section gets] into heads of opposing players, throwing them off their game.”
Reading, Michigan, forward Jami Hubbard, a senior on the women’s team, concurs.
“There is nothing more intimidating than playing an away game with a big home team crowd,” she said. “It is a really difficult environment to overcome, and it really solidifies the ‘home field advantage.’”
The work of the Krazies has not gone unnoticed. Both men’s and women’s programs have often taken to platforms such as Twitter to highlight the section’s energy and thank the group for its relentless support.
Both basketball teams made strong showings this season, too. The women’s team finished with a 10-6 record in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Conference and 18-8 overall.
“Kresge is already a difficult place for our opponents to play,” said Hubbard. “With the help of the Kresge Krazies, it becomes that much more difficult.”
The men’s team finished 10-4 in the MIAA and 19-8 overall. It was the best regular season finish for the team under the direction of head coach Jody May, who joined Albion for the 2008-2009 season.
The men’s team also won the MIAA tournament as a second seed. After beating Olivet in a Sports Center-featured buzzer beater, they beat first-seeded Trine by three points at the Thunder’s own stadium.
Albion shuttled some Kresge Krazies to Angola, Indiana, for the game.
“The fans that were there tonight were unbelievable,” said men’s basketball head coach Jody May in an post-tournament final interview with Albion Athletics. “So do I think they were a big deal? I think they were unbelievable. I just want to thank them not just for tonight, because I think they helped us tonight, but for all our games.”