BYU basketball: First Fan settles in at First Four

Published: Tuesday, March 13 2012 6:02 p.m. MDT

President Barack Obama and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron attend the Mississippi Valley State versus Western Kentucky first round NCAA tournament basketball game, Tuesday, March 13, 2012, at University of Dayton Arena, in Dayton, Ohio. Left of Obama is Marvin Nicholson.

Associated Press

Tonight's game will be broadcast on TruTV. Here's how to find the channel.

DAYTON, Ohio — As BYU gets set to face Iona in its sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament, the atmosphere at University of Dayton Arena has been unusual, to say the least.

Lines of people waiting to enter the arena started forming late Tuesday afternoon, hours before the start of the First Four. But it wasn't so much because the NCAA Tournament was on the verge of tipping off here.

It was because of the anticipated arrival of the nation's First Fan, President Barack Obama, for the first game of the tournament, prompted tight security everywhere around the arena. And everyone went through the process of going through metal detectors and having bags searched. Signs were not permitted in the arena.

One security worker was puzzled when a BYUtv employee had a vial holding consecrated oil on a key ring. Before it was confiscated, another security personnel worker said that it was fine, that the vial was used for religious purposes.

It seemed like around every corner there were Secret Service agents, dressed in suits, and police officers.

Obama and British prime minister David Cameron arrived just before tipoff of the first game featuring a pair of No. 16 seeds, Mississippi Valley State and Western Kentucky.

Obama, who wore a dress shirt and no tie, received a standing ovation, and he was ushered to a front row seat behind the basket. A couple of referees shook the Commander-in-Chief's hand.

During the first timeout of the first half, television and newspaper photographers stormed the court to photograph the president. Later in the half, Obama and Cameron ate hot dogs and talked. For Cameron, it was reportedly the first basketball game he had ever attended. Throughout the first half, Obama chatted amiably with fans sitting nearby.

No word yet if Obama plans to stick around to watch BYU, the alma mater of the man who he could face in November's presidential election — Mitt Romney.

As for the BYU-Iona game, the Cougars are facing the nation's highest-scoring team. Gael point guard Scott Machado leads the country in assists. It is expected to be a fast-paced, high-scoring contest.

A good start is imperative for BYU, which is 25-1 this season when leading at halftime and 0-7 when trailing.

The Cougars need to establish a strong presence inside with forwards Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock, and play strong perimeter defense in order to advance.

The winner of tonight's game plays No. 3 seed Marquette Thursday in Louisville.

email: jeffc@desnews.com

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