Emotions were off the charts as the DePaul women's basketball team tipped off its Sweet 16 tournament run in Chicago six years ago in 2006.
And that's saying nothing of the intense, hotly contested games DePaul had to weather against Liberty and Tulsa to advance out of the first and second rounds at Allstate Arena.
The Blue Demons also happened to be lugging around heavy hearts the whole weekend as they mourned the death of legendary DePaul men's coach Ray Meyer, who had died the Thursday before the tournament started. Up until the very end, he was still a fixture around campus and a big fan of the women's team.
"It wasn't like Coach Ray was a stranger with our kids," DePaul women's coach Doug Bruno said. "They all knew him, and Coach knew them. It was one of those devastating situations and you had the emotion from that."
The Blue Demons felt fortunate that their first- and second-round games were in Chicago because they were able to attend Coach Meyer's wake on the morning of their game against Tulsa.
Now, all these years later, the Blue Demons are once again feeling fortunate that they'll be able to open up the postseason in their hometown beginning on March 17 at Allstate Arena. Of course, they wouldn't mind if the weekend was a bit less emotionally charged this time.
The games themselves could be draining enough.
There will be two first-round games on that Saturday (3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.) and then a second-round game on Monday, March 19 (8:30 p.m.) to determine which team will advance to the Sweet 16.
"We had great support last time (in 2006), a lot of fans came out," Bruno said. "But it wasn't (standing room only). We'd love to get that kind of support this time. We're looking to make this an event.
"It's going to be St. Patrick's Day weekend and we think fans would be doing themselves a favor to get their celebrations started with some really great women's hoops games."
Many prognosticators and bracketologists have 23rd-ranked DePaul (22-10) locked into a No. 7 seed. That would bring an attractive No. 2 seed to Chicago. Likely No. 2s include Duke, Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee and Miami, all top-15 teams.
Of course, Tennessee would be the most compelling draw. The No. 9 Lady Vols (24-8) travel well and seem to bring all kinds of national hype and fanfare. Most importantly, this NCAA Tournament could be the last for legendary coach Pat Summitt. She was diagnosed with early onset dementia last year and has taken a much less active role along the sidelines this season.
If this was indeed Summitt's final NCAA Tournament, it would be interesting to be there in person to watch her get it started.
Miami, meanwhile, has a local connection in head coach Katie Meier. She was a superstar at Wheaton High School and graduated in 1985 before playing at Duke for four years. In 2009, she was inducted into Wheaton's Hall of Fame.
Meier directed Miami to the ACC championship last year and led the seventh-ranked Hurricanes to a 25-5 campaign.
"A lot of people remember Katie so that's neat, and then Coach Summitt coming here would be a pretty cool deal, too," Bruno said. "There will be some good teams here and possibly some really good stories. And the thing is, tickets are only $10. It's the price of a movie ticket. It's a pretty good deal to see some really good women's hoops."
Tickets for the NCAA first and second round games at Allstate Arena next weekend start at $10. An all-session pass can also be purchased and there are special group, student and family plans.
For more information, call the DePaul ticket office at (773) 325-7526 or visit www.NCAA.com/tickets.
Find out where all the women's NCAA Tournament teams will be headed by watching ESPN's Selection Show at 6 p.m. on Monday.
DePaul will be the only team from Illinois to get a bid, but Notre Dame will get a No. 1 seed and six teams from the Big Ten will likely be represented, including Penn State, Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa, Purdue and Michigan State.
In addition to Notre Dame, the other No. 1 seeds will be Connecticut, Baylor and Stanford.