Duke, Vermont coaches discuss underdog-favored crowd at March Madness: 'The roof would've came off this place'

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The Duke men’s basketball program is one of the most popular in the NCAA, but the Barclays Center crowd was largely in favor of the underdog on Friday night.

The 13th-seeded Vermont Catamounts tried their damndest to get their first non-First Four March Madness victory, and a healthy majority of the crowd wanted it to happen badly.

Duke coach Jon Scheyer knows all about home-court advantage, as Cameron Indoor is one of the best there is. But, he knows all about the road jeers as well.


Barclays Center scoreboard

General view of the arena during a practice day ahead of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 21, 2024 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

And although Friday’s contest was played at a neutral site, as is the whole tournament, he says the game against Vermont might as well have been an away game in the record books.

“You’re in the first game [of the session], you can feel it’s not full… so what happens all of a sudden halfway through the game, you feel it even more,” Scheyer said of the Brooklyn crowd. “So when the team is making a run – I don’t think other teams are rooting for us, that’s the feeling that I get sometimes… I thought it was an electric environment.”

Scheyer wasn’t wrong – it was very much an anti-Duke crowd – even those dressed in Wisconsin red and James Madison purple for the nightcap at Barclays Center were rooting for Vermont.

Jon Scheyer at March Madness

Head coach Jon Scheyer of the Duke Blue Devils reacts during the second half against the Vermont Catamounts in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 22, 2024 in New York City.  (Elsa/Getty Images)


But, there was plenty of green in the seats, and Vermont head coach John Becker couldn’t help but notice.

“Oh, it was fun. And listen, what this program’s become, we were playing close to home, but what this program has become is amazing,” an emotional Becker said after the game. “And to see all the alums, basketball alums that flew in all over the place to get here in this game, all the families, all the fans, it’s incredible, and that kind of support from your fanbase, it all goes hand in hand with what we’ve become.”

Vermont’s home arena, Patrick Gym, holds just over 3,000 people – the capacity at Barclays Center for basketball is just under 18,000 – and well over half were in favor of the Cats – even if it came from other schools’ fanbases.

John Becker

Vermont Catamounts head coach John Becker reacts against the Duke Blue Devils in the first round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at the Barclays Center.  (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)


“It was awesome. We fed off that. We wish like hell we could have gave them more to cheer about,” Becker continued. “They were ready to explode on every basket we made, and damn it, we just didn’t make enough of them… If we could have just made a run late, the roof would’ve came off this place.”

Vermont is 0-10 in the first round of March Madness in their school’s history, while No. 4 Duke awaits the winner of No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 12 James Madison.

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