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"Curtain of Distraction" helps ASU win basketball games

For one basketball team in Arizona, the fans are helping the team win games by distracting the opponents
The success behind Arizona State University's free throw defense system 03:15

The first weekend of March means one thing for college basketball fans: March Madness, a time when crowds go crazy in the run-up to the NCAA championship.

For one team in Arizona, their crazy fans actually help win games by distracting the opponents. CBS News' David Begnaud reports the action in the stands often rivals the action on the court.

The student fans of Arizona State University bring new meaning to the term "coming out." Students come out of what they call a "Curtain of Distraction" wearing wigs, dresses and more.

The aim is to distract opposing players while shooting free throws. Call it cute, or even corny, but head basketball coach Herb Sendek calls it effective.

"It seems to have a mystical force because the other team's free-throw percentage in the second half is dropping," Sendek said.

All of the distractions seem to work, statistically. A study last month from Harvard Sports Analysis revealed the "Curtain of Distraction" lowers the opposing teams' scores by at least one point per game.

Some rowdy Sun Devil fans call themselves "The 942 Crew," named for the 942 seats in the student section of the Wells Fargo Arena. The crew was inspired by Duke University's "Speedo Guy," who successfully stripped away the focus of opposing players.

In Arizona, the distractions are diversified and flat-out silly.

"It's the perfect distraction," said one student. "How could you not look at those silly people?"

For many students, the "Curtain of Distraction" has become a bigger draw than the game itself.

"It just brought a whole new excitement to the basketball games," another student said.

"Our student attendance records seemingly are broken one game after the next," Sendek said.

ASU student attendance has jumped 33 percent since the curtain opened in 2013.

On the night CBS News was there, a crazy lumberjack seemed to successfully distract a Stanford player from sinking his shot.

"It makes things fun for the students," Sendek said.

In the Stanford game, ASU was the underdog, but in the end they won. So how was Stanford's free-throw percentage?

"First half, 85. Second half, 67," Sendek said. "What was I telling you?"

In a sport where winning is the point, Sendek said if you let student-athletes think that's the main goal, you lose.

"If that's your only focus, you missed the boat," Sendek said.

These fans hope the opposing team gets distracted by the boat, and just maybe it'll help the home team win.

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