EnergySolutions Arena was almost funereal when Thursday night's game between the Arizona Wildcats and Belmont Bruins started. Maybe 1,000 fans had trickled in from the top of the stairs to find their seats.
Here's why: The arena had to remove every single fan from Session 1 after the Gonzaga-Southern game, then clean up the stands and let fans with Session 2 tickets back into the arena.
The Gonzaga game ended around 4:45 p.m. Salt Lake City time, and the UA game was slated to start 35 minutes later. We didn't see the first fans enter the arena until 13 minutes before tipoff.
Even then, the arena wasn't full until at least 20 minutes after the game started.
"We're spoiled at Arizona, with a home crowd that sells out every game," UA guard Nick Johnson said. "When we go on the road, it mainly sells out. So it was definitely a shock."
UA guard Jordin Mayes called it "kinda weird."
We want Wiepking
Max Wiepking had never sat on the bench during an NCAA tournament game before. Two years ago, when the Wildcats marched to the Elite Eight, the walk-on sat in the stands, squeezed off the travel party list.
Which made Thursday special for the senior - much less the fact he got to play.
In the waning minutes, the Wildcats pep band started chanting, "We want Wiepking!"
"I sorta laughed and waved to them, and the ball went out of bounds," Wiepking said. "It was perfect timing."
Sean Miller turned to the bench and told him to get in the game. Wiepking played the final 43 seconds.
"That was awesome," he said. "Not a lot of people can say that. That's something I'll remember for a long time."
When the Wildcats took the floor for the first time, they shot, passed and dunked on the basket in front of what would be their bench.
When Belmont took the floor, the UA realized it was shooting on the wrong rim.
"I was like, 'What's going on?'" senior wing Kevin Parrom said.
The Wildcats had to run to the other side - the basket they shot on in the first half.
"It was good to get both shots in," UA forward Solomon Hill said.
"We know we have a different set of refs for this tournament. So we're just adjusting to them."
UA guard Nick Johnson
Hill was sitting at his locker, watching a television that hung in the UA locker room in the distance.
"I see you, Cal!" he said. "That's a home game, that's why."
He smiled as he talked about the Golden Bears upsetting UNLV, albeit close to home in San Jose, Calif., and Oregon's win earlier in the day against Oklahoma State.
Center Kaleb Tarczewski called Thursday, in which league teams went 3-0, a "great day" for the Pac-12.
"I think it shows that we deserve respect," he said. "It's always nice to see fellow Pac-12 teams doing well in the tournament."
Parrom was happy to see the results, given the fact many experts picked all three teams to lose.
"I don't think anybody really likes the Pac-12," he said. "I don't know why."
"It's great. This is what we came to Arizona for. It's great to survive and advance, but you can't be happy just winning the first game."
UA senior wing Kevin Parrom
Son of a Sun
Chad Lang was born in Phoenix, where his father, Andrew, played for the Suns. Belmont's redshirt freshman center said that had little to do with how he viewed the Wildcats.
"A little bit - not much," he said. My dad played for (Phoenix). That's it."
The big number
Arizona's NCAA tournament record as the higher-seeded team, dating to 1985