I arrived in Denver in great anticipation of seeing all of the guys, and seeing some outstanding and competitive games given the history of the No. 5 vs. No. 12 and No.4 vs. No. 13 games. I was not disappointed… I saw the guys.
Here's a rundown of the games we got to see:
Michigan St. 72, Temple 61
An 11-point win for Michigan State against a drastically overmatched Temple squad.
Temple seemed to have no plan offensively. They just dribbled up the court, passed it around a few times and jacked up a 3-pointer.
The Spartans put up a 17-point lead and got lazy late to let Temple get it back to 11. This was a very underwhelming game to watch. Even though the game started at 10:30, I began drinking at 11:20 a.m. I began drinking heavily just after halftime.
By the way, 10 more hours to go in this marathon day.
The highlights were:·
- Tom Izzo and the Spartans scored on EVERY inbound play after a timeout.
- Temple, in five of the same opportunities, had two turnovers, an airball, and one score.
The Spartans had a pretty strong representation there in the the crowd. In an effort to poke them with a stick, the absolute highlight of the game was when the crowd got quiet and my buddy “Pedro” yelled, “Let’s go Wolverines!! Yeah!!”
I did, however, notice that for a 10:30 a.m. game, the Pepsi Center will inordinately full. Other than one section of the stadium, both the lower levels and the upper decks (where we were sitting) were packed. It seems as though Denver has some pretty strong fans out here.
Throughout this game I discovered why the No. 5 vs. No. 12 phenomenon continues to happen.
In past years, the committee has put together quite a competitive field, and the gap between the teams isn’t that huge. Add to that the fact that the crowd at these games is usually against the higher seed. The fourth or fifth seed will have their own fans there cheering for them, but overall the crowd is indifferent and the ONLY way they get into the game is if the underdog is making a game of it, then the neutral fans start rooting for the underdog.
It never works the other way where the indifferent fans start cheering for the favorite.
The wave of momentum rolls over the teams and it becomes hard to overcome for some teams. But as I may have mentioned, these were the worst possible four basketball games to have to watch consecutively in the history of the NCAA tournament. That may be overstated… but not by much.
Next up was Pitt vs. Oral Roberts.
This was my best chance to get a leg up on my bet that three teams from our games would put five white players on the court at once. I lost this bet badly.
Oral Roberts led this game 14-13 early. Pitt scored on 12 straight possessions and went on a 26-4 run. They outscored ORU 32-16 going into the half. Game over.
I was beginning to worry now. Two blowout games in a row; my greatest fear has surfaced and there are two options, and I can’t decide which is worse.
1. I’m afraid of how difficult I’ll be to be around if Mason gets blown out by 23 points.
2. I’m afraid of how difficult I’ll be to be around if Mason is WINNING by 23 points.
Sorry to spoil the scores for you, but let’s just say option one was worse.
During the break we went out into the city of Denver to grab some drinks and food. We stopped at a place called the Rio and got Margaritas and caught up on the other games of the tourney. I’m not an expert on Margaritas and don’t know what goes into one except for Tequila. Evidently, neither does the bartender at the Rio. House rules at the Rio are that no customer can buy more than three margaritas. I see why.
After finishing our 190 proof cocktail, we headed over to the George Mason Alumni reception and social. I was nervous about this I must say. Inviting my seven intoxicated friends (in a high altitude) to mingle with the president, administration and alumni of the University that employs me.
Turned out, there was nothing to worry about. My friends behaved (very well, I might add), the food was perfect and I actually got to mingle with some alumni and talk about Mason and how much it’s grown, etc. The folks there with better seats than us told us where they were sitting and so we had a place to sneak down to for the evening games.
Which brings us to Washington State vs. Withrop.
This had all the makings of a better afternoon. FINALLY, we had a good game! Wazzu and Winthrop tied at 29 at the half! We made our move down from Section 330 to Section 124 at halftme. It’s almost like watching a different sport when you’re in the seventh row, vs. the upper deck.
We’re down close with our new friends from the alumni shindig, we’ve go a tie game at the half, and we’re chatting up the fans around us. Things were coming together and looking up baby!
Washington State opened up the second half on a 9-0 run. I write in my notepad, “Game over”. Winthrop goes the next 6:45 without a point. Wazzu went on what you could call a 38-5 run before Winthop hit an NBA distance 3-pointer with 2:15 left. Another way you could put it is that Wazzu started and ended the second half on a 41-11 run. My anxiety about Mason rises.
We’d gotten most of the group to move down now, only we were in different sections. Dean and Irwin were in section 122, right next to us. Pedro, Steve and Ryan were directly across the stadium from us in the Wazzu section.
I’m not sure how this happened, but I think they were worried about my behavior in the case of a one sided Mason game. For some reason, Lou stayed up in our section in the upper deck. Dusty and I were able to unite with Dean and Irwin in their section and were the rock stars of our section. We had everyone gassed up for the game even starting a, “No one likes you!” chant toward the Notre Dame team.
Once again, things were looking up.
Long story short, whoever’s seats we were in showed up and made us move. We found seats back in section 124, only to have one of the players’ families show up to sit there. We were able to stave off the invasion and stay where we were.
Unfortunately, it was no help.
Notre Dame put on a jump shooting showcase and finished of the blood bath that was Day one of the 2008 Denver regionals.
Mason fans were awesome and kept cheering on their team til the bitter end. As they pulled Mason’s seniors out of the game… the last ones remaining from the Final four team, everyone cheered. Even the indifferent ones. And that was a wrap on the day.
We have talked ourselves into the idea that Saturday’s games should be great. I agree and am hopeful that they will. The experience has been great as usual. The weather, the scenery, the bars, etc.
The downside is that the most competition this weekend has come from our Madness bucks bets. The big bet on the board for today is whether Drake will make five 3-point shots before they get a dunk. Wish me luck.
Pedro is having a big party at his place tonight. Let’s hope the party isn’t as much of a demolition as the games were. More to come soon…
Part III of the Denver Chronicles will be posted Sunday after the second round games… unless something noteworthy comes from Friday night.