Thursday, March 19, 2009

A March Madness diary - Day one

Thursday, March 19:

11:00 a.m. - Preparing to leave house. Cookies? Check. Laptop? Check. Brackets (all 6 of them from the various pools)? Check. Special hoops section of Kansas City Star and USA Today? Check. I'm off to my buddy's house--he with the "man cave" downstairs of full kitchen, pool table, requisite framed sports posters, and the big screen.

11:10 a.m. - Stop by Shell station to pick up today's copy of USA Today for the needed facts and hoops insights from their Sports section. The USA Today in the display is from Tuesday. I ask the attendant if she has today's edition. Her answer? "What we got is what's over there." I half expected her to say "USA what...?"

11:25 a.m. - Arrival at my buddy's. He has the spread of chili and fixin's ready to go with plenty of snacks and drinks downstairs. We settle in for tip-off of game one, Texas A&M versus BYU.

11:52 a.m. - The first cut-away by CBS. I think of keeping count but decide against it knowing that this will be the first of many throughout the weekend.

12:50 p.m. - We're both yelling "switch!" at the TV as CBS insists on staying with the A&M-BYU game versus shifting to the Memphis-Cal-State Northridge game, a tight one that Northridge currently leads.

1:12 p.m. - The first of many AT&T commercials airs--the one with the Mom who chastises her son for selling the roll-over minutes at the garage sale. My watch-mate says, "That lady's annoying!" I tell him to get used to it--he'll see that spot dozens of times between now and the end of the tournament.

1:45 p.m. - During the Northern Iowa-Purdue game, mention is made of the Northern Iowa upset of #3 seed Missouri in the tournament in 1990. My buddy audibly groans, as he is an MU fan.

2:30 p.m. - Nemanja Calasan of Purdue enters the game. I make a mental note to nominate Nemanja for the All-NCAA Name Team.

4:10 p.m. - All of the second games are over. As expected, Radford goes down by a lot to North Carolina. But, you have to like the nickname - the Radford Highlanders. Radford is located in Virginia and their head coach, Brad Greenberg, works just 15 miles down the road from his brother, Seth Greenberg, who is the head coach at Virginia Tech.

4:12 p.m. - By my count, I've heard the term "score the basketball" (as in "he can score the basketball") seven times thus far today. Isn't that the objective of the game--to "score the basketball?"

4:15 p.m. - My friend and I look at each other in disbelief--what happened to the last hour of CBS coverage? Typically, day one and day two go from 11:30 - 5:15 or so for the afternoon games. Today, they have cut off early leaving us with no telecast of Mississippi State - Washington, the last game of the afternoon.

4:20 p.m. - I depart my buddy's house for my own--a quick dinner and then downstairs to my own big screen and 'frig for the evening slate of Round One action.

6:42 p.m. - Texas ties Minnesota with 6:00 to go in the 1st half. Can the Horns become the second Big 12 team to win today?

7:24 p.m. - A commercial airs for tickets for next year's Final Four. The spot features plentiful shots of Kansas' Final Four appearance last year including the Mario's Miracle shot. I'll never get tired of seeing that play.

7:42 p.m. - What were close games are turning into bonafide upsets. Michigan's up big on Clemson as is American on Villanova, although Nova has cut it to 7 with 15:00 to play. Cutaway CBS...cutaway! (Thankfully, they do so...)

7:44 p.m. - Dick Enberg exclaims "oh my!," his signature line. American's not going away.

7:45 p.m. - Villanova's Jay Wright has got to be the nattiest dresser of NCAA coaches. Dude can fill out a suit...

7:48 p.m. - I cut to the other CBS affiliated station airing games just in time to see a Clemson and Michigan player butt heads with blood spilled on the Sprint Center floor.

8:01 p.m. - Basketball is such a game of rhythm and runs. Villanova is now within two. American's body language is suddenly that of a 14 seed who's beginning to doubt they can win.

8:16 p.m. - Now, all of the games are close. Michigan leads by four with 1:15 to play, Akron's up by one and Villanova has a five point lead. CBS thankfully cuts to the Michigan - Clemson game.

8:18 p.m. - Tim Brando says, "Ah, the tournament is a precious time of year." "Precious?" don't use the word "precious"--particularly sports announcers!

8:25 p.m. - Michigan becomes the second 10 seed of the day to beat a 7 seed. Amazingly, it's this program's first appearance in the tournament since 1998.

8:26 p.m. - CBS switches to Gonzaga - Akron. The Zags are now on top by five with 7:56 to play. A scuffle developos on the floor. Former Kansas Jayhawk Micah Downs, now at Gonzaga, plays peacemaker with one of the Zips.

8:30 p.m. - Another player hits the floor--this one from Gonzaga. This game has become very chippy.

8:37 p.m. - Downs hits a three. Game over...

8:53 p.m. - We now go to Binghamton - Duke. Of course, Duke is the featured game in the middle of prime time. (By the way, I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but Sean McManus, head of CBS programming, is a Duke alum.)

8:55 p.m. - Now CBS give us Oklahoma - Morgan State...and, Blake Griffin scores his first basket.

9:19 p.m. - I switch over to UCLA - VCU given that many pundits predicted an upset here. So far, UCLA looks focused and sharp.

9:25 p.m. - Now I'm getting Illinois - Western Kentucky on the alternate CBS channel. I've got the Hilltoppers in all of my brackets. Go WKU!!!

9:26 p.m. - Orlando Mendez-Valdez is a starter for WKU and barely has enough real estate on the back of his jersey to hold his name.

10:13 p.m. - The Coke Zero commercial featuring the Rock Chalk Chant of Kansas airs. Pretty cool...

10:27 p.m. - Oklahoma leads by 20 with 12:35 to go. Is OU toying with us...or are they going to resume the swagger that they had in the first half of the season? Are their rumored internal team issues behind them?

10:50 p.m. - We get treated to a replay of the flip given Blake Griffin in the OU - Morgan State game. Thankfully the MS offender was ejected...and again I marvel at Griffin's on-court demeanor. He has taken so many shots from other players and always keeps his cool.

11:00 p.m. - Only 12.5 hours until the Kansas game.

11:02 p.m. - Uh oh, here comes VCU! 63-60 UCLA with 1:47 to play.

11:14 p.m. - Larry Sanders of VCU swats away a Darren Collison shot and gives the Rams a shot for the upset with 13 seconds to go.

11:17 p.m. - Great defense down the stretch by UCLA, a trademark of Ben Howland's team...and Collison in particular. No upset here...

11:29 p.m. - Suddenly, the Illinois - Western Kentucky game is, indeed, a game. WKU has the lead by three with 23 seconds to play. The night session of games have been far more competitive and interesting than the day games.

11:32 p.m. - Whew, WKU holds on. And, Bruce Weber (Illinois coach) can start whining about something...

11:35 p.m. - That's a wrap, sports fans. Day one complete--over 12 hours of college hoops. And, you wonder why they call it "Madness."

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