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Students React to Hoops Mania 2023

Ryan Sarbello/ Villanovan Photography
Junior basketball player Christina Dalce’s walk-out dance routine was a fan favorite, as she performed a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” with the dance team.

Students had mixed reactions to this year’s Hoops Mania performer: rapper and producer Rick Ross.

Ross performed at Hoops Mania, colloquially known on campus as “Hoops,” which historically kicks off the Villanova Basketball season. Hoops Mania celebrates the men’s and women’s basketball teams, with walkouts, dance routines, a three-point contest, a scrimmage and other fun events meant to garner excitement about the upcoming seasons. The real piece de resistance of Hoops, however, comes after all that: a surprise performance, which historically has included the likes of Drake, Nicki Minaj and most recently Meek Mill to kick off last year’s season. This year, however, students were left surprised, if not disappointed, with Ross’s selection as Hoops performer.

Hoops Mania is always a celebration of a new beginning, but this year may be one of the most important yet. Hoops Mania 2023 marks a fresh start for the teams, with the recently transformed men’s team looking to its new transfers to help push past a season that failed to bring the team to March Madness 2022. The women’s team, on the other hand, is hoping to continue its great success last season, which brought the team to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in 19 years. 

As students excitedly filed into the Finneran Pavilion, they were welcomed by the warm notes of the Villanova Band and the performances of the cheer and dance teams. 

After a lot of anticipation, Hoops kicked off with an introduction of the women’s team. Women’s head coach Denise Dillion came out first and led a cheer that resulted in the loud reverberating of “Nova” and “Nation” from all corners of the Pavilion. Following the introduction of the assistant coaching staff, the women’s team walked out to different hype songs, dancing along or simply enjoying the cheers of the erupting crowd. 

Junior Christina Dalce’s walk-out, which included a coordinated Michael Jackson Thriller dance, was a fan-favorite. Also notable was the return of Maddy Siegrist, who has joined the Dallas Wings since leaving Villanova as the Big-East’s all-time leading scorer in women’s basketball, to unveil the Sweet Sixteen 2022 banner.

Following the women’s walk-out and dance with the Villanova Dance Team, Kyle Neptune came out to introduce the men’s team. 

Fans were able to get a first glimpse at the transformed men’s team during the blue and white scrimmage, in which the men’s team split up and played each other. The white team won, 16-11, to the blue. Justin Moore, Brendan Hausen, TJ Bamba, Jordan Longino and Lance Ware represented the White team, among others, and Tyler Burton, Chris Arcidiacono, Eric Dixon, Mark Armstrong and Hakim Hart played for the blue team among others. Strong performances from Bamba, Ware and Burton indicated the promise of the team’s new transfers.

As always, University students spent the last few days on campus speculating about who this year’s Hoops performer would be. Big names in Hip-Hop, such as Lil’ Wayne, Ice Spice, A Boogie with the Hoodie, Lil’ Baby and NLE Choppa, were floated around as though who could be the potential performer. Some suspected Rick Ross, but many were convinced otherwise, as Ross’s tour schedule indicated that he would be in Miami on the night of Hoops Mania. 

However, Ross proved the rumors wrong when he showed up as this year’s Hoops Mania performer. Ross, a Mississippi native, is a record label executive, in addition to being a rapper. He has received Grammy nominations and has collaborated with other prolific artists such as Drake, DJ Khaled and most recently, Meek Mill, who was last year’s Hoops Mania performer.

According to a Instagram poll from The Villanovan, there were mixed responses to Rick Ross as this year’s Hoops Mania performer, with around 60% of respondents saying they were dissatisfied with the performance. Many students even left the performance early. Villanova Athletics explained that “the selection of the artist for Hoops Mania is a combined effort from various offices on campus, with input from the Basketball programs.” 

After posting the poll, The Villanovan opened Instagram DMs to students to share their thoughts on Hoops Mania as a whole, as well as Rick Ross’s performance.

“It was okay,” one senior said. “I think it could have been more hype with a different celebrity, but I had an okay time.”

Seniors felt let down, as this Hoops Mania will be their last as a Villanova student.

“Seniors deserve a fifth year after that Hoops,” another senior said. “Rick Ross and no streamers. Tragic.”

“Rick Ross was potentially the worst choice for an artist,” a freshman said, reflecting a discontent that was quite pervasive on campus.

Other students thought that the event itself moved very quickly this year, and some mentioned the lack of streamers being thrown out, which is usually a feature of Hoops Mania. Rumors have swirled around campus that Ross had to leave quickly because of the previously mentioned commitment in Miami that night. 

“It felt very rushed this year,” another student said.

While he was received with mixed reviews, Ross saying, “I feel like it’s a special moment” to the audience could be a precursor to this year’s basketball seasons, with the women’s team riding last year’s high and the men’s team looking older and bigger with veteran players and several experienced transfers.

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About the Contributors
Lydia McFarlane
Lydia McFarlane, Co-News Editor
Lydia McFarlane is one of three Co-News Editors for 2023 after starting as a Co-News Editor in the summer of 2022. Lydia is a senior double majoring in Communication and Political Science. She is also minoring in Russian Area Studies. Lydia is active in several cultural organizations at Villanova, and hopes to combine her talents in journalism with her passion for social justice. Lydia's writing has also appeared in The Hill, Education Week and Resolve Philadelphia.
Sarah Sweeney
Sarah Sweeney, Senior Editor
A senior studying Applied Quantitative Finance with a minor in Computer Science, Sarah Sweeney is The Villanovan's Senior Editor for Fall 2023, working on newsroom initiatives. Her main responsibility was founding and writing The Villanovan's weekly newsletter. Before becoming Senior Editor, Sarah was one of two Sarahs holding the position of Co-News Editors for The Villanovan in both 2021 and 2022. Sarah holds the honor of being the only Editor to have gone viral on TikTok, one of her proudest accomplishments.
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