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17:10

Courtside at March Madness: Man behind the mascot

I've had a blast covering some of March Madness and spending a few days with Mike Nuzzo, the man behind the mask of Roc, the Pittsburgh Panther's team mascot. The photo below got some nice play on the cover of the Sports section when the Erik Brady's masterfully written story ran on March 22. Sorry for the delay!

Catheryn makes some adjustments to Roc's costume during game two of the NCAA playoffs at the Verizon Center March 19, 2011. Butler beat Pittsburgh in the last moments of the game after a series of controversial calls by the referees. Garrett Hubbard/USA TODAY

I had so much fun telling this story and getting to know Mike, his mother who is the cheer coach, and some of the cheer team. Really a great group of people so dedicated to cheer, their team, and their school. Mike is a great guy, huge Pitt sports fan, dedicated, and a smart dude too. He's in the nursing program at Pitt. This guy is going places.

Did I mention that I was court-side for both games? As in kneeling on the floor. Ouch! That wood is hard on the knees for what it's worth. I need to do take a cue from my colleague at Jack Gruber at USA TODAY and bring a padded chair and earplugs. I'd be happy to share more about the how's of this story if anyone is interested. Check out my video story "Man behind the mascot" which I edited on last Monday.



The most maddening thing about this NCAA tourney has been the continuous Butler upsets and, well, of course my attempt to park anywhere near the Verizon center during the first round. I had to tip a guy $15 just to get in a garage three blocks away! But back to Butler. Who would have thought they would be in the final four?


Matt Howard, (54) after he scores the winning basket against Old Dominion with one-tenth of a second left on the clock in round one of the NCAA playoffs at the Verizon Center March 17, 2011. Garrett Hubbard/USA TODAY

Old Dominion in round one against Butler. Garrett Hubbard/USA TODAY

The team bands make the games so much more fun! A Uconn band member waiting for their team to play in round 2 of the NCAA playoffs. Garrett Hubbard/USA TODAY

Any predictions for a national champion? Will Butler go all the way?

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