Looking Back at the NCAA Tournament Games in Louisville

Last weekend I had an amazing opportunity to shoot for two teams at the NCAA Tournament in Louisville, Kentucky. I had shot the NCAA Women’s Tournament last season along with the Big Ten Tournament, but this was a much bigger deal. I was at the same pod as Purdue, but I was not shooting for them. I had two new clients in a very high pressure situation. I love the pressure of those moments so I was in Heaven for a couple of days. The first day was a nice way to get your feet wet. I got to the stadium early to get the lay of the land. The next day I would have to be very quick with my edits and uploads so I wanted to know my way around the stadium very well. I also made some general photos of the venue. These are the things that the teams could use for their preview coverage of the coming days. From there I met with Iowa State to discuss what they were looking for, and what I could do for them. I really enjoyed working with Iowa State over the course of those two days. The loss robbed me of a chance to shoot a second game for them, but in the grand scheme of the team I was not the important part that day. A lot of kids had their season come to a shocking end. On the other end of the spectrum was the Hampton Pirates. They were riding in to the tournament on an amazing run playing the ultimate Goliath. The arrived so late to the tournament site I never did get to meet with my contact face to face. They got to the YUM Center just in time to have a press conference and practice. They were loose from square one, but I think that comes with everyone thinking that you would lose. You truly have nothing to lose in that situation. Beyond shooting for both teams that contracted me I also shot a bit of the exciting UCLA game against SMU. I did not shoot the finish as I had to get ready for the night games. I made sure that I had everything ready to shoot the Hampton game against Kentucky, and then I went out to shoot the Purdue game against Cincinnati. This was one game that I really wanted to shoot as five years before I saw the Boilers play in the Big Dance for the first time. The result was not one that I wanted to see, but I really did not have time to dwell on it as Hampton was starting to warm up. If your team suffers a hard loss having some work to take your mind off of it right away works really well. This was a great couple of days for me, and I made some interesting photos. Below are ten that I liked the best for one reason or another. As with all of my lists they may not be the ten best that I made, but the ten that I liked the best for one reason or another.

10. Before Iowa State took the court for their practice I spent some time in their locker room. Fred Hoiberg has two young sons that travel with the team. One of them was riding the exercise bike, and the other was just chilling out on the training table. I really liked the nature of this photo. It is a simple calm before the storm picture, and something that the general public cannot see. The banner behind him helps to complete the story for me.

Reginald Johnson of Hampton dribbles against Marcus Lee of the Kentucky Wildcats

9. As I said above the Hampton game against Kentucky was a true David vs. Goliath moment. It was a team that was barely in the tournament against a team trying to make history. I wanted a photo that showed the nature of this matchup, and I lucked out here. Reginald Johnson was being guarded by Marcus Lee who has about seven inches on him. Factor in the distance from the camera, and you have the shot that I was looking for.

8. During the Hampton shoot around I found a few of the coaches kids on the sidelines hanging out. I asked if I could make their photo, and they said yes. I was going to shoot them with the court in the background, but then they started mugging for my camera. They all put on a show for me, and I was happy to make the photos for the school. This is one of my favorite moments from that.

7. I live in West Lafayette so I see a lot of Purdue basketball. I don’t cover them for the school, but I am a graduate so I have an interest in them. I shot their game hoping to see a tournament win. Coming into the tournament I had seen them play five games, and they had won three of them. I was hoping to catch a fourth win, but of course one team always goes home unhappy this time of year. Purdue put up a good fight though, and I was very happy to photograph it from the baseline. The Boilers did not go down easy though needing overtime to put them away. Here Boiler junior Rapheal Davis gets an easy bucket in transition.

6. Hampton was the ultimate underdog so I challenged myself to make photos that made them look like they were the better team. I wanted a lot to give back to the school showing them making the great plays. This is a simple layup by Ke’Ron Brown that is a simple clean photo.

5. UCLA and SMU battled for forty minutes. It was a game that came down to a crazy call in the final seconds. Who could ever have predicted that the game would end on a missed three pointer? I chose this photo to represent the game as it showed part of that battle. I love these shots at the free throw line. They really are a great place to get the down and dirty images. I did not shoot much of this game as I was spending my time transmitting images and getting a bite to eat. I did manage to make a few frames though.

4. Having lived in Iowa for a short time I was excited to shoot for Iowa State. I lived about 40 minutes north of the school, and saw a few events in Hilton. I was bombarded with news of the teams though during my stay. I thought that by taking this job that I would have at least two games. That was not meant to be though as sometimes happens in the tournament. If you have your one bad game when the opponent has their good game you are done. Iowa State was a team that would ride on their second half runs. They did not get one this time. I had some nerves early in the game as I had not shot on this big of a stage before. After I captured this image of Monte Morris getting a layup I calmed down. I had something in my camera, and more would follow. You want that first shot though. This was the one for me during the tournament. Everything else just was basketball after that.

3. During the Purdue game I had a few shots at the basket that I liked. A.J. Hammons had a few dunks, but only one that was photogenic from my angle. I liked this one of Isaac Haas a little more though due to the rim hang. At this point in the game I thought that Purdue might even pull away a bit. They were controlling the paint with both big men.

2. The Hampton fans really were having fun during their time in the sun. During the game against Kentucky I heard the band having a lot of fun so I turned to look at them. They just had that look of a bunch that would be fun to photograph. I made my way over to them during a TV timeout, and that is where I made this image. I found one band member to center the image, and he did not disappoint me. My hunch proved correct here.


1. My favorite shot of the tournament was this candid shot of Purdue big man A.J. Hammons. He is a player that usually does not show much emotion. When they came out for their press conference during media day though the chairs in front of the players were empty. The floor was opened to questions from an empty room. During the silence that followed A.J. was trying not to break. When he finally did I was ready. I love the photo for all that it stands for. This was a loose team coming into a tournament where only one player had any experience. At the time I thought that it was a good sign. It is still my favorite shot though. After shooting boring press conferences all day this was a breath of fresh air. It gave me a little extra in the tank to keep going. It will be my favorite image from the week I would guess for a long time.

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About Pinola Photo

I am a sports and lifestyle photographer based in West Lafayette, IN home of Purdue University. I cover sports for Big Ten teams as well as other colleges. You can follow me on twitter @pinolaphoto. You can also view my website at www.davewegielphoto.net

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