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Northridge Fans Will Keep Watch

Supporters plan various functions around Matadors' televised appearance in NCAA tournament today.


NORTHRIDGE — The sofas are worn and the brick fireplace at the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity house hasn't seen wood in years, but interior design wasn't a concern Thursday.

David Friedman, a sophomore from Woodland Hills, can't wait for today, when Cal State Northridge makes its first appearance in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Friedman, an avid Matador fan, will be in front of the fraternity big screen beginning at 4:30 p.m. The fraternity date party later tonight will have to wait.

"It's not like we have the talent level of [top-ranked] Duke, but it's definitely something people here are talking about," Friedman said. "It's great."

The Matadors (22-9) are nearly 2,000 miles away in Dayton, Ohio, preparing for a first-round Midwest Regional game against Kansas (24-6), while most of the rest of the Northridge community has stayed behind, busy with some first-time preparations of its own.

"We're going a mile a minute," said Hakim B. Chambers, an operations coordinator for the student union. "The bookstore started selling more paraphernalia, everyone's in a cheery mood and everybody's rallying behind the team. This is big. I've had to put aside all other projects for this."

At the top of Chambers' list is planning a bash at the satellite student union on the northeast portion of campus, where students can watch the game on a movie screen. He's hoping for several hundred attendees.

And a victory.

"It would bring us more notoriety," he said. And by being on TV, "we get free advertising for the campus across the United States."

Off-campus sites will be busy as well.

The Black and Gold Brigade usually invade the California Broiler sports bar, but there will be a different color scheme tonight--red, black and white.

Known as a hangout of Pittsburgh Steeler fans, the Broiler, about two miles from campus, is expecting a large Northridge contingent.

"Friday nights are usually happening, but this will make it even more busy," said manager Chris Watson.

Less than a mile from campus, Chili's restaurant is getting ready for a follow-up to one of the most lucrative nights in its 17-year history.

Saturday, after the Matadors won the Big Sky Conference tournament, a few players showed up and were greeted by a standing ovation from the packed restaurant.

"It was quite a raucous evening," said manager Tom Landeros, who estimated the restaurant took in $20,000. "We're making sure that we're staffed up [tonight] and our people are here when we need them. We're expecting to be [full] pretty quick. And we're ordering extra beer."

Robert G. Marshall, an archivist at the school and part-time history professor, has made his students aware of the importance of the game. And he's made them an offer he hopes they can't refuse.

"Show up tonight at Chili's, and if you're in my class, I'll buy first round," he said. "If you're not in front of your TV set at 4:30, you're a disgrace."

Not everyone has caught the excitement.

It's been business as usual at the Oviatt Library.

"There's been no riots here," said Bruce McDonald, a technology specialist at the library. "At least, I haven't noticed any."

And a few students give quizzical looks when asked about the success of the basketball team.

"I haven't had time," said a student as she rushed into the student services building. "I can't even comment on them."

Said another: "I have no clue. Sorry."

Despite the hustle and bustle of last-minute preparedness, most Northridge fans are being realistic. The Matadors are, after all, almost 13-point underdogs.

"If we win, it'll only be by one," Friedman said. "And it'll be on a bad call if we do. I mean, come on, it's Kansas. They've been here 17 years in a row."

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