Friday, March 20:
The day in which your school plays has a much different feel than the day when you can just sit back, watch, and groan or cheer about what's happening to your brackets. Game day for, in this case, the Kansas Jayhawks makes me a nervous wreck. The finality of the tournament is emotional and...final. The season's over. Only one team, at the end of it all, is going to walk away satisfied.
11:15 a.m. - Syracuse jumps out to a quick 6-0 lead over Stephen F. Austin. Any concerns about the Cuse's tired legs, after the 6-overtime thriller last week versus Connecticut followed by an overtime win the next night against West Virginia, seem to be unfounded.
11:30 a.m. - CBS switches to the Kansas - North Dakota State game. I am going on blog silence during this two hour interlude--I'm much too nervous to type or be witty. (Thanks, readers, for understanding...)
1:32 p.m. - Frantic texts come in from my son, who's in Denver (after skiing this week), and a friend, who's in southern Missouri. In both locales, CBS has cut-away from the Kansas game.
1:34 p.m. - Exhale slowly. KU has beaten back NDSU by 10. Once again, the Vegas oddsmakers know what they are doing as the line was 10. The Bison did not disappoint and were as good as advertised--much better than a 14 seed. The little guard, Woodside, was a combination of Steve Nash and Jimmy Chitwood. The kid has a sneaky first step, got most any shot he wanted, but was hounded into 6 turnovers by a variety of Kansas defenders. Sherron Collins scored 32 and dished out eight assists and Cole Aldrich came back to his hometown to score 23 points, grab 11 rebounds, and throw down eight dunks. Special mention needs to be given to Tyrone Appleton, who came in early and did a good job defensively when KU needed an energy lift, and Marcus Morris. Morris hit all three of his shots, scored eight points and had seven rebounds. Interesting stats of the game: KU only has five turnovers and also only has five points from its bench.
The difference between this 14 seed (NDSU) and Stephen F. Austin, a fellow 14 who played Syracuse, is pretty interesting. SFA is a bigger team who does not shoot the three well. NDSU, on the other hand, is fifth in the nation in three-point FG efficiency. The long ball is what NDSU relied on in the first half to stay close and is what most lower seeds do well if they eventually pull off the upset.
1:35 p.m. - We get treated to tight endings in both the Oklahoma State - Tennessee game and the Marquette - Utah State game. OSU's win puts the Big 12 at 5-0 thus far in the tournament. Not bad for a league that is supposedly down this year.
2:20 p.m. - Missouri is now the local team on the tube and are at 6-6 with Cornell at the first TV timeout. The arena in Boise is one of those that looks dark on television. Why is it that places like Boise and Greensboro consistently get NCAA first and second round games?
2:21 p.m. - I give thought to a quick road-trip to Minneapolis. There have to be tickets available, right, given the NDSU loss?
2:57 p.m. - The first half of the MU - Cornell game ends with the Tigers up four. It's been a sloppy half by both teams. Can the Big 12 go 6-0 in round one?
3:19 p.m. - I notice on the floor that Missouri is playing in the Taco Bell Arena in Boise. I wonder why TB would choose to have an arena naming rights deal in Boise? Are there lots of chicken gorditas sold in Idaho?
3:37 p.m. - Missouri is finding its rhythm. Kim English has given quality minutes and Cornell is not hitting shots--MU's pressure is having an effect. Once again, the Tigers are pulling away from an opponent in the second half.
3:38 p.m. - Pittsburgh, the one seed, is having a very tight game with East Tennessee State. I cut away to the other CBS channel to catch the four-point game between Dayton and West Virginia. The winner of that game will face Kansas on Sunday.
4:23 p.m. - The afternoon games come to a close. MU has no problem pulling away from Cornell, Pitt breathes easier after surving ETSU and Dayton beats Bob Huggins and West Virginia, thus becoming the next opponent for Kansas on Sunday.
6:10 p.m. - The evening session starts with Morehead State making a jumper against #1 seed Louisville. Don't you know that these two Kentucky schools playing, along with Western Kentucky's win last night, sticks in the craw of University of Kentucky fans?
6:25 p.m. - Boston College and USC tip off in Minneapolis. Judging by the number of empty blue seats, the North Dakota State fans must have headed back to Fargo.
8:00 p.m. - I take an hour-long break to catch Friday Night Lights on NBC. FNL is appointment viewing...and, yes, I know we could DVR the show but I need the diversion.
9:02 p.m. - Back to hoops. I had picked Arizona to beat Utah but did not expect BC to fall to USC. Maybe Tim Floyd's team is finally figuring it out. The USC-Michigan State could be a very good round two contest.
9:11 p.m. - Craig Bolerjack is starting to sound like Bob Carpenter, another hoops announcer, and Bob Wenzel sounds like a poor man's Bill Raftery.
9:27 p.m. - Why is Wisconsin always such a tough out?
9:37 p.m. - The Florida State tomahawk chop chant just does not sound right at a basketball game. Also, can these two teams be more different? FSU wants to romp up and down the floor. Wisconsin is all about half-court offense, bruising defense, and "ugly-ing" up a game.
9:42 p.m. - Wake Forest has cut Cleveland State's lead to nine at the half. Cleveland State hasn't been to the Dance since 1986, the year they upset Indiana.
9:45 p.m. - The Sonic "don't you bring that weak tot action" commercial airs. I still like that spot. And, the "I, reporter" campaign by the local CBS affiliate is really self-indulgent. Here, let me pat myself on the back.
9:50 p.m. - CBS goes to the Siena-Ohio State game. Verne Lundquist and Raftery are announcing this game. How many college games must those guys have broadcast in their careers? Lundquist did the regionals in '86 when Kansas beat Michigan State and North Carolina State in Kemper Arena, and then two years later he broadcast Kansas' wins over Vanderbilt and Kansas State in the regionals in Detroit. His partner then was former Boston Celtic great, Tom Heinsohn.
9:53 p.m. - The Siena-Ohio State game is being played in Dayton, another site that consistently gets first and second round action. I saw Kansas beat Western Kentucky there in second round action in 1995 and can attest that there's not much to do in Dayton other than the Aviation Museum. And, the building is nothing special...
9:56 p.m. - Dallas Lauderdale of Ohio State throws down the Siena player, Ryan Rossiter, who has to be the doofiest (I'm sorry) looking kid in college hoops. Raftery calls it a "regular" foul; Lundquist calls it "irregular." Funny that the Big East announcer (Raftery) didn't think it was that big of a deal. And, Lauderdale must also be nominated for the All Name Team.
10:16 p.m. - Siena tightens it up to four with 11:10 to play. We saw the Saints earlier in the season in Allen Fieldhouse and they are a quality club who returned everyone from last year's tourney team.
10:28 p.m. - Michigan State is officially winning big over Robert Morris, proving that Spartans are better than signers of the Constitution?
10:31 p.m. - Rossiter and Lauderdale go at it again. You have to hand it to the kid who looks like an extra from Hoosiers--he won't back down from the big fella.
10:44 p.m. - Siena hits the three to cut it to one with 47 seconds to go.
10:47 p.m. - Hasbrouck, who hit the big three, misses the first Siena FT but nails the second. Tie game--eight seconds to play.
10:49 p.m. - OVERTIME...the first of the tournament.
10:57 p.m. - Cut-away to Florida State-Wisconsin. The Noles are down two and are going to the line. Toney Douglas hits both charites--we are tied.
10:59 p.m. - Back to Siena-OSU and the Buckeyes score. A minute to go...
11:00 p.m. - Cut to end of FSU-Wiscy and CBS CUTS AWAY FROM THE SHOT LEAVING THE HAND OF THE WISCONSIN PLAYER!!! What the h-e-double hockey sticks are you doing!!?? I get to find out it missed and that game is going OT by looking at the ticker at the top of the screen. Go to a split screen, for crying out loud--this IS NOT THAT HARD.
11:02 p.m. - Wake loses to Cleveland State. Wow...Wake was #1 in the country at one time. Now...out.
11:03 p.m. - Raftery--"ONIONS!" (My favorite...) Siena sends it to 2OT on the trey at the end of the first extra period.
11:04 p.m. - Cut to Wiscy leading FSU by three in the OT.
11:05 p.m. - Now back to the other OT game. We've got two great games going on and no rhythm from the network in covering either one.
11:14 p.m. - Back-and-forth we go from game-to-game but in time to see Wisconsin drive, hit the circus shot, and get fouled. Badgers up two with two seconds to go.
11:16 p.m. - Back to Siena at the line and a tie game. The Saints go up one and call time-out. Thad Matta goes ballistic at the refs. Wow...we've got two doozies going at the same time.
11:17 p.m. - Wisconsin makes me eat crow. They beat FSU in 2 OT's and prove they DO deserve to be in the tournament. Now, let's see what the other Big Ten team does in their overtime game.
11:18 p.m. - "ONIONS--DOUBLE ORDER...GARDEN VARIETY." The line of the tournament thus far by Raftery as Siena drains the three go up two with 3.9 seconds to go. Yikes!
11:21 p.m. - What a great moment--the shot of Hasbrouck's parents who followed their Siena Saint to Dayton to see the game.
11:22 p.m. - It's over...two days of hoops, with madness finally rearing its head at the end of day two with two overtime thrillers. 32 teams are now headed home, 32 are moving on to round two. It's the best annual two days in sports...hands down. Now, gotta go to bed...peace, out.