As soon as the Gophers men's basketball team's 11:15 a.m. Thursday tip-off against Louisville was announced, I thought: This is great!
It's the first of the "field of 64" games, it's televised on CBS and it will make for a great lunchtime rallying point on Thursday. And as a member of the media — even one who isn't traveling for this game — I'm instinctively wired to root for early start times because of deadline pressure. Any game that starts before 6 p.m. his helpful. But before noon? The best.
As it turns out, though, what's good for me isn't necessarily great for Gophers fans who want to travel to support their team. Sure, the location (Des Moines) offers the ability to drive instead of flying — a savings for cost and maybe even time since a 3½-hour drive to Iowa is faster than almost any flight when you factor in airport time.
But the time, day and even location combine to offer a lot of logistical hurdles and peculiarities. I was curious how Gophers fans who are planning to go are navigating the trip. Here are some takeaways from some Twitter conversations with fans:
• Some fans arrived Wednesday and will stay until Minnesota loses. But a lot of you are driving down Thursday morning and arriving just in time for the 11:15 a.m. tip-off. "Leaving dark and early at 5:30am on Thursday," @Melissa_Berman wrote.
• Melissa and many others also plan to return to the Twin Cities on Thursday after the next game of the session is over (Bradley vs. Michigan State tips off 30 minutes after Gophers/Louisville, and the games are a package deal).
That's going to be a long day of driving and basketball. More power to you all, but that's part of the hassle of a Thursday game. If the Gophers had earned a Friday slot — and if fans had to fly to get to their site — my guess is more people would at least plan to tentatively make a long weekend out of it in hopes of seeing the Gophers play twice if they beat Louisville.
"Coming in hot on Thursday and leaving after regardless, only got the one day off," @QuavoYoda wrote.
But hey, at least doing it all in one day is possible.
• Of course, within that framework there is hope and there is optimism. And then there is trying to live your best life, as @T_Lachmansingh is doing. Here's his dream itinerary: "Come down Thursday AM, snag both games in the Session, make some cheddar off the upset, grab some @elbaitshop, be on our way back to the homeland, watch Sat game from Frozen 4, head to Vegas next weekend, continue win streak."
Back in my younger days, I might have demanded to ride shotgun for that whole thing. El Bait Shop, by the way, is a Des Moines establishment boasting 262 beers on tap. If you're going to visit postgame before driving home, please do so responsibly.
• Some of you, though, are staying put Thursday and hoping for an upset so you can make the trek Saturday with a Sweet 16 berth on the line.
From @PEJ44: "Coming in hot Sat AM after we beat Louisville. Have 35 drinks, burn DSM to the ground, watch Gophs make #Sweet16."
I don't recommend more than a few drinks nor should any city — even one in a rival state — be burned to the ground. But the enthusiasm and optimism are palpable.
• One lucky Gophers fan (@skolyghost) already lives in Des Moines. (Er, maybe that's only lucky for a few days), while @gopherbones declares: "I plan on moving to Des Moines permanently." I mean, that is one way to get around the logistics of the first two rounds. Just start a new life in Iowa.
For a lot of the rest of you? Wave to each other on I-35 as the sun comes up and as the sun goes down.