By Michael Wood

In Indiana, basketball is king. Like many here, I grew up playing it in driveways, gyms and neighborhood playgrounds. And as long as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of the Purdue Boilermakers men’s basketball team.

My love for Purdue led me to go to school here. In addition to getting a great education at a world-class university, I’ve been able to cheer on my favorite team firsthand for 4 years. This year, I got to do it as president of Purdue’s student section, the Paint Crew. We call it the Paint Crew in honor of the team’s head coach, Matt Painter.

I think our group is the best student section in the country. We’re large – 2,800 strong. We’re loud. And we’re extremely well-prepared. We actually have a unit that’s assigned to dig up dirt on the opposing team’s players. Usually, it’s something embarrassing they posted on social media. We put all the dirty details on sheets and, at key points throughout the game, remind those guys about what they said or did. It’s always fun when we get a reaction.

We’re also a bit superstitious. I, for example, wear custom-made Purdue shoes only on game days. I’ve got a nearly flawless record. There’s also a group that eats at a specific restaurant before most every game. It’s uncanny how their dining habits directly correlate to the team’s W-L record.

Each game, we run through a rotation of 5 cheers when the team’s on offense. When they’re on defense, we just get loud … really loud. By the end of the game, our voices are shot. It’s a workout every time.

Because we’re the student section, we have seats for home games in the front rows of Mackey Arena, right above the players’ benches. Paint Crew seats, however, are not assigned. Each game, we conduct a lottery to determine where everyone will sit. The winners get the front row, while the losers sit a little higher up. Honestly, there are no bad seats at Mackey. It’s an incredible place to watch a game.

We always camp out the night before one big game each year to show our support for the team. This year, we did it ahead of the Feb. 25 game. Members of the team, in turn, deliver pizzas to us to show their appreciation and we all get hyped up for a big win the next day. It’s always a great time.

Now, all of our attention is on NCAA March Madness.

Boiler up!

Michael Wood is a senior at Purdue University and president of the basketball team’s Paint Crew student section.

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