SALT LAKE CITY — What do you do during the National Anthem if you’re standing in the middle of a mostly full basketball arena and you’re on national TV?

If you’re a member of the Weber State ROTC Color Guard, you look straight ahead.

Before Auburn and New Mexico State tipped off their first-round clash Thursday morning in the NCAA Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena, the four-person Weber State ROTC Color Guard stood at center court, presenting the nation’s flag flanked by vintage M1 rifles.

The color guard, consisting of ROTC Cadets Michael Riding, Matt Taylor, Kyle Neville and Baylee Nye, didn’t know they were going to be at the NCAA Tournament until two days ago.

“I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. It was very exciting, a big honor to be a part of something so big,” Riding said.

The National Anthem usually lasts between 1-2 minutes. When it’s playing, members of the color guard stand stoic like a statue, holding the flag.

It can be difficult, what with the thousands of people looking at them, plus those watching on national television.

Many people’s exposure to color guards comes in those few minutes when they walk on to a court or field, stand during the anthem, then walk off.

Something many might not know is that it takes frequent practice — the choreographed and rigid steps, the movements — so when the time comes, they’re in synch.

“We practice posture and movements, keeping your eyes forward is a big thing, not looking around at things. A lot of it’s done out of periphery,” Riding said.

Presenting at a big basketball game such as this is a cool experience that’s also sort of old hat. After gracing the Stewart Stadium field for Weber State football home games, the color guard has been to two Utah Jazz games this season, too.

The color guard came to Salt Lake City in the morning and by the time the Auburn-New Mexico State game started, they were getting their possessions (phones, keys, wallets) out of a plastic bag in the arena tunnel.

All four had a smile on their face at one point or another after the anthem.

The other thing that put a smile on Riding’s face?

“We got out of class to do the game, so that was nice,” he said.

SYRACUSE MAY PREFER OGDEN TO SLC

The year was 1994.

The Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan fiasco unfolded at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit. President Bill Clinton delivered his first State of the Union address.

That year was the last time Weber State hosted the NCAA Tournament. And it’s unlikely WSU will host NCAA Tournament games again.

One school that might enjoy WSU hosting another regional other than, obviously, Weber State?

Syracuse.

The Orange played in the Ogden regional in 1994, beating Hawaii and Wisconsin-Green Bay to advance to the Sweet 16, where it would lose to top-seeded Missouri in overtime.

Since then: Syracuse lost to Gordon Hayward-led Butler in the 2010 Sweet 16 in Salt Lake City.

Thursday night, the Orange fell 78-69 to Baylor in Salt Lake City. Syracuse’s all-time NCAA Tournament record in the state of Utah is 2-2 with both wins coming at the Dee Events Center in 1994. Both losses have been in SLC.

It’s unknown how Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim feels about Ogden, but it’s probably better than how he feels about Salt Lake City. He was asked about his SLC memories by reporters on Wednesday.

“Not good ones, at the end, that’s for sure. It’s a nice city. We had a good time here. You get to go to a great Italian restaurant in Salt Lake, which I never thought would happen,” Boeheim said.

And he wasn’t in the best of moods after the Baylor loss for obvious reasons. One can think he’ll be glad to get on the plane to New York.

EYES & EARS: OBSERVATIONS FROM DAY 1

In each locker room, every player had their name and number attached to a strip of velcro. New Mexico State’s Trevelin Green already took his off and put it in his backpack by the time reporters were allowed into the Aggies’ locker room after their heartbreaking 78-77 loss to Auburn. Is it a keepsake? “Of course,” he said.

The Auburn-New Mexico State game came down to a final NMSU shot off an inbound play. It missed and Auburn survived. “When he shot that last shot, I just closed my eyes, hoping he didn’t make that because he hit like three previously in a row,” Auburn’s Bryce Brown said.

NMSU earlier had three free throws to win the game before the last-second 3-point shot. If those free throws go in, “...it is an Ali Farokhmanesh moment and that will be remembered forever,” NMSU coach Chris Jans said.

Kansas beat Northeastern 87-53. It was handy and dominant. Coach Bill Self wasn’t thrilled with part of the win, though. “I thought we were jacking around. The halftime is long and I still don’t know the guys totally understand the importance of every minute and every possession in an NCAA Tournament game,” Self said.

Gonzaga’s Killian Tillie had a ferocious slam dunk over two Fairleigh Dickinson players. “I have been waiting for that moment for him, honestly. Because he — I don’t think he’s had a dunk yet this season and I’ve been waiting on it personally,” Bulldogs forward Brandon Clarke said, prompting laughter. “And that one was a crazy dunk. It was over two guys.”

An apt description of Gonzaga’s 89-47 win over FDU came during a timeout. Both teams’ mascots had a dance-off at mid court. The head fell off of FDU’s eagle mascot, eliciting a loud gasp from the crowd. A scoreboard graphic erroneously indicated FDU was a school in the Southeastern Conference with an enrollment of 29,776 located in Auburn, Alabama, whose men’s basketball coach is ... Bruce Pearl.

You can reach prep sports reporter Patrick Carr via email at pcarr@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter @patrickcarr_ and on Facebook at facebook.com/patrickcarr17/.

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