COLUMBIA, SC (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Savannah Whitt gets the best seat in the house for many of the Virginia men's basketball games at John Paul Jones Arena. She gets a similar seat during the Wahoos NCAA Tournament run with the Virginia band.
"As a fourth-year," Whitt, a fourth-year trumpet player, said, "this is the last time that I'm going to be as fully integrated, like know the team as well watching as many games as possible. Being here is incredible. It's like the best experience."
Whitt is one of 30 band members with the Cavaliers in Columbia for the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. If the Cavaliers make it to the next weekend in Louisville, Kentucky, the band will rotate with some different band members along for the ride.
"I can't even believe I'm here because they only choose like 30 people to go with them, so it's really nice to be here with them. It's like an honor," said Michelle Kim, a second-year tuba player.
"I love that even when we're just a smaller portion of the band," Whitt added, "it still feels like it's your best friends here with you."
In the grand scheme of things, these are students missing several days worth of classes. But this opportunity comes around just a few times in a band member's lifetime.
"We left [Wednesday]," Kim said, "so I'm missing classes for this, but I got everything settled and I did all my work in advance just for this."
"So, on my trip this morning, I proctored a test for one of our tuba players," said Andrew Koch, a Virginia assistant band director. "We make sure they have everything they need."
The band plays a pivotal role in the Wahoos tournament run. The cheering begins and ends with the band, helping to hype up any Virginia fans in attendance.
"It doesn't matter whether we're winning or losing," Koch said. "We really try to act like we're a family. Whatever's going on in John Paul Jones Arena or here in South Carolina, we're all in it together."
"Having the opportunity to, we traveled with them on the same plane and we stay in the same hotel," Whitt added. "It sort of gives us a validation that we're wanted here."
"When I'm in JPJ, I'm separating myself from the basketball team," Kim said. "I'm like oh, they're the basketball team, we're the band. Here, we're all here together. We travel here together. We're all here to represent UVA."