Mega March Madness Marathon: Hour No. 1

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Mega March Madness Marathon: Hour No. 1
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

What happens when a sports fan takes in every minute of Friday’s NCAA first-round action with not one, but two full-size televisions in his living room? The answer is Mega March Madness Marathon 2009, a Bleacher Report series that will be published approximately every hour by columnist Tim Cary. The action starts at noon...

12:00     Welcome to the Marathon. I’m settling in for a long day with my bracket, my laptop, my remote, and an overwhelming supply of my favorite caffeinated beverage. 

12:03     It actually takes longer than you would think to get the room arranged appropriately. Let me set the stage: In front of me is a 32-inch television on the left, a 60-inch television on the right. The bigger screen comes equipped with HD, and that’s the only television we’ll be listening to. (Trying to keep track of two play-by-play teams at the same time drives me batty in a hurry!) 

12:08     There we go: The two games I’m most interested in, North Dakota State-Kansas and Oklahoma State-Tennessee, are cued up and ready to go. NDSU/Kansas gets prime treatment on the 60-inch HD television. 

12:10     Don’t worry, though. The B games, so to speak (Stephen F. Austin-Syracuse and Utah State-Marquette), are only one “previous channel” click away on the remote. Makes it easy to adjust during commercials. And Greg Gumbel is sending us on our way...

12:12     Time to check out the bracket. In the early games, I’ve got Tennessee knocking off the Cowboys down the road in Dayton and Syracuse taking care of Stephen F. Austin. To be honest, the Orange scare me a little bit because of their strenuous Big East tournament—but since I have them in the Elite Eight, much faith is needed.

12:13     And yes, I have some upset specials to keep an eye on: 30-win Utah State over Marquette...I’ve always liked the Eagles, but playing without Dominic James makes them vulnerable. 

12:15     And in my huge, major, enormous, earthshaking upset, I’ve got North Dakota State and star Ben Woodside shocking defending national champ Kansas. Knowing my track record with picking upsets, expect Kansas to win by 30.

12:16     As you know, the game times are staggered, so both screens are showing Syracuse and Stephen F. Austin as they tip it off.

12:17     Quick, name the Stephen F. Austin mascot.

12:17     That’s what I thought. Correct answer = Lumberjacks.

12:18     Announcers from Miami are Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel.

12:18     And we’re underway.

12:19     Not a fan of CBS doing one team name in gray on the scoreboard display: Syracuse, Purdue, Texas so far, just to name a few. None of them have gray in their color scheme.

12:20     Two-and-a-half minutes gone in Miami, and the Lumberjacks have still never scored in an NCAA tournament game.

12:20     Hopefully that string ends today—it could get ugly otherwise.

12:21     USA Today lists Stephen F. Austin’s best wins this year as North Dakota State, Sam Houston State, and Nicholls State. Insert warning here: If your greatest wins of the year are all against teams with “State” in the school name, it’s not a great sign. If one of said wins includes both state and a person (i.e. Stephen F. Austin or Sam Houston), upset chances go down even more significantly.

12:22     Thank goodness, the Lumberjacks scored. I was starting to worry. 6-2 Syracuse.

12:23     Since it’s Syracuse, I really don’t need to watch this game until overtime, right?

12:24     Second screen has switched over now. We’ve got Cowboys and Vols, Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery. If I want good announcer quotes, Raftery’s the guy to check out. I may need to switch which game I’m listening to.

12:25     Tipoff in Dayton—we’ve finally got simultaneous games. Raftery is now the only human in history to say “man-to-man” in a total of one syllable. That’s 3.7 milliseconds of speech if you’re scoring at home.

12:26     Gotta love Lundquist immediately asking how Raftery survived doing Syracuse games. After all, anybody can say zone in a single syllable.

12:28     As a Big Ten fan, I must admit to being shocked at games that start 6-6, less than two minutes in. Has living in the Midwest my whole life made me allergic to scoring? My arm’s starting to twitch a little bit.

12:29     Showcase game is just about to tip off. North Dakota State, the hopes of my bracket (complete with bonus points for upset) rest on your Bison shoulders.

So why did I, an otherwise intelligent person, pick NDSU? Well, here’s the best rationale I’ve got. It’s the first year they’ve been eligible for the Dance, they have a boatload of fifth-year seniors (four starters), they have a star who scores almost 23 a game (Ben Woodside), they shoot threes like crazy, and they’re playing in front of the delirious “home fans” in Minneapolis.

12:30     Not that anything’s really close to North Dakota, but comparatively, Minneapolis is basically next door.

12:32     Underway in the Metrodome. Go Bison!

12:33     Even better! Play-by-play man Gus Johnson is in Minneapolis! This is what the Madness is all about. Underdogs and Gus.

12:33     Bison with two early threes. At least they won’t get embarrassed (I hope).

12:35     Four games running now. Utah State and Marquette have tipped off. For now, we’ll stick with the Vols-Cowboys game on the small screen and the Bison-Jayhawks tilt in HD. We can check in on the others during commercials and/or blowouts.

12:36     Speaking of blowouts, looks like Syracuse is up a dozen already. Could be a short inaugural tournament for Stephen F. Austin.

12:37     Kansas with their first alley-oop. Classic battle of styles between KU’s size and NDSU’s shooters.

12:37     Gus Johnson: “Rise and fire.” We estimate this to be the first of approximately 47 times Johnson will utter this phrase over the next three weeks. 

12:38     Never mind. I forgot how many threes the Bison shoot. Let’s adjust the “rise and fire” counter estimate to 57.

12:38     12-11 on both screens. Big 12 teams are up a point, many miles apart.

12:39     It always amazes me how three or four games can go to commercial at exactly the same time. Murphy’s Law of March Madness.

12:40     Checking in on Marquette and Utah State in Boise. Somehow these games always end up in the basketball meccas and hot spots of the world—like Boise?

12:41     And the Boise building is named “Taco Bell Arena.” That makes it even better.  We could play the biggest basketball games of the year in Madison Square Garden, New York...or Taco Bell Arena, Boise. Real toss-up there.

12:43     Bison are 4-4 from distance. I still believe.

12:44     Sherron Collins answers right back for Kansas. A year ago, he was playing in the most pressure-packed situation you can imagine, a national title battle against Memphis. 

12:44     I don’t think I want to know who North Dakota State was battling a year ago. Knowing what I do of their conference, I’d have to guess Eastern State School University of the Midwestern North or some other directional institution.

12:45     Collins again. He’s got 13 already. Can somebody please guard him?

12:45     My other upset pick isn’t looking so hot at the moment either. Marquette’s out to a six-point lead over Utah State.

12:46     NDSU appears to be a very skilled offensive team and a (how do I put this nicely) very pathetic defensive team. Maybe I should have researched before I gambled 11 bonus points (14-3 differential) on a team that can’t guard anybody.

12:47     But that’s a lot like work.

12:47     There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to which arenas the NCAA sets up their trademark blue-and-black custom floor in—and which ones they just throw a logo on top of what’s already there. Yesterday, almost every floor was “standardized.” Today, Miami and Dayton have added a welcome trace of red to the bland institutionalized colors.

12:48     And besides, cut me some slack. It’s hard to keep track of which game is which when there’s four going on—and the floors all look identical.

12:49     Tennessee and Oklahoma State have basically been a single point apart the entire game so far. Vols by one, 24-23, with eight minutes to play until halftime.

12:51     Jayhawks execute the 3-on-2 break to perfection. Woodside answers with the triple. He’s 3-4 for seven points. 

12:52     Gus just reminds us that Woodside scored 60 earlier this year—and the Bison lost that game. Well, that just makes me feel so much better.

12:53     New official NDSU motto: “Defense optional.” 

12:53     Oklahoma State’s Travis Ford just got a technical foul in Dayton. Way to spice up the early action, Coach. 

12:54     Speaking of action, here’s hoping we don’t see multiple players ejected again today. Let’s save the takedowns for wrestling, Morgan State.

12:55     Woodside for three again. He may have to score 60 for the Bison to prevail.

 12:55    Syracuse looks like they’re headed for the victory column. ‘Cuse up 20 late in the first half. Of course, Western Kentucky almost blew a 17-point lead yesterday in the last four minutes or so. Maybe I should wait at least until halftime to advance the Orange on my bracket.

12:56     CBS just threw up a graphic showing that Marquette was 23-4 when James got hurt; they’re 1-5 since. That’s all well and good, but why are winning by 10? Answer me that.

12:57     The only score I’m interested in right now: Collins 15, Woodside 12 in Minneapolis. First one to 40 wins. 

12:58     Maybe.

12:59     Tennessee-Oklahoma State is looking more and more like it will come down to the last shot. Maybe I should have splurged on those tickets in Dayton. If I leave right now, I could get there in the middle of the second half.

12:59     But then I could only watch one game at a time. Who would want to do that?

For hour number two of MMMM, click here.

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