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 continues in hour number four.
3:00 I expected James Harden to go off for Arizona State. Instead, it’s Jeff Pendergraph lighting it up for the Sun Devils.
3:01 29-16 ASU, and the Owls are on the ropes early.
3:03 Finally, more games. Once I’ve spent some time flipping back and forth between four contests, it’s hard to settle in for just Arizona State-Temple on two different screens. Now we have Dayton-West Virginia and Pitt-East Tennessee State about to tip off.
3:04 Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery again on the call for the Pittsburgh game. I wonder if Raftery can cram “man-to-man” into half a syllable, obliterating his one-syllable record from earlier today.
3:05 Nah, that took him almost two syllables. Raftery’s slipping as the day goes along.
3:06 Or maybe he just doesn’t care about East Tennessee State.
3:06 Quick, what’s the East Tennessee State mascot? I’m guessing Buccaneers.
3:06 Yes! Point for me in the random mascot naming competition.
3:07 In case you missed the last hour’s column, I picked Bob Huggins and West Virginia into the Sweet 16, so expect them to lose in the first round.
3:08 Mountaineers down 7-3 early, so my unskilled predictions continue to look horrible.
3:10 “This is the East Tennessee State version of the Flintstones.”—Verne Lundquist. I have no idea what he’s talking about, but that was random enough to get my attention.
3:12 West Virginia finally gets an easy layup in transition. The Dayton lead is down to 9-8.
3:13 I apologize in advance for the confusion, since my two televisions are showing one game featuring the University of Dayton and another game being played at the University of Dayton.
3:14 The Ivy League has made an appearance—Cornell and Missouri are underway. Because of the NCAA’s desire to keep teams close to home in today’s economic climate, these schools are playing in the most logical place possible.
3:15 Boise, Idaho.
3:16 Missouri’s J.T. Tiller just took a 15-foot baseline jumper with no defenders literally in the entire picture. How does that happen?
3:17 Wouldn’t you think Ivy League students are smart enough to not leave shooters wide open 15 feet from the basket? Me too.
3:17 Don’t look now, but the Buccaneers of East Tennessee State (the school with the way-too-long name which will now be referred to as simply ETSU) are tied at 13 with one-seed Pittsburgh.
3:19 And now the Bucs are ahead.
3:20 But not for long. Great pump fake by Pitt to get the Buccaneer defender to jump basically into his bench, and the Panthers have retaken the lead in Dayton.
3:20 Checking in on the real Dayton, Flyers still lead West Virginia, 14-12.
3:21 And back in Miami, Christmastime is here again. Temple and Dionte Christmas have cut the early Sun Devil lead to 29-26.
3:23 And the Devils answer right back. 35-26 at the break.
3:25 I’m a firm believer that a one-seed will eventually lose a first-round game. Of course, “eventually” is a long-term word. Could Pitt be the victim today? Panthers are on top 20-15.
3:26 Make that 20-17.
3:27 It always seems like I’m a year behind the tournament trends. Bob Huggins took the Mountaineers to the Sweet 16 last year—so I pick them to the Sweet 16 this year.
3:28 And they’re down six in the first half.
3:28 I think my focus may zero in on Pitt/ETSU for a while. The Panthers have seven field goals and seven turnovers, which means the Bucs are within one. 7:31 left until halftime.
3:29 West Virginia is 4-for-14 from the floor against Dayton’s stingy defense. Flyers still by six at the media timeout
3:31 This Cornell/Missouri game should be fascinating. Ivy League teams have the reputation of playing smart, calm, deliberate basketball, while Mizzou likes to play frantic with 40 minutes of full-court pressure. Who can assert their style on the other team first?
3:32 Mizzou’s up 13-10 at the 10-minute mark.
3:33 Meanwhile, back in Dayton, the Buccaneers won’t go away quietly. ETSU at the line, and the Bucs can take the lead. Pittsburgh has turned it over eight times, ETSU one.
3:34 The Buccaneers are doing a good job boxing out Pitt big man DeJuan Blair, who’s averaging a double-double on the season. Blair has the size, but ETSU is outworking him on the block to keep him off the glass.
3:35 And Blair gets an offensive rebound and goes to the line. Great premature analysis by your friendly neighborhood sports columnist.
3:36 Every time I look at the small screen, West Virginia is attacking in transition. If they could actually make some of those layups, the Mountaineers would be on top by now. Instead, it’s the Flyers by three.
3:38 Slam dunk, DeJuan Blair. Technical foul, DeJuan Blair. Way to kill your team’s momentum by hanging on the rim, DeJuan Blair.
3:39 Great backdoor cut by ETSU’s Kevin Tiggs. Better block by Pitt to deny Tiggs the layup.
3:40 Missouri just bit on a pump-fake by Cornell 29 feet from the basket. Maybe you should just let him shoot out there? The result: drive, defender helps, dish, and wide-open three in the corner. Score one for the smart kids.
3:42 That’s 21st century basketball at its finest. Three-on-two, and instead of throwing the no-look pass to the left for a layup, Missouri kicks it to a shooter in the right corner. Twenty-foot jumper bounces off the rim, and two sure points are traded for the possibility of three. Every 1970s player that mastered the fundamental, mid-range jump shot is sighing wistfully at the loss of an era.
3:44 Pitt player hits the scorer’s table. ETSU player hits the scorer’s table. And they say this isn’t a contact sport...
3:45 2:25 to play in the first half, and ETSU has a chance to tie the game at the line. Panther fans, are you sweating yet?
3:46 “He’s a great free throw shooter—77 percent on the year.” And both shots clank off the rim, of course.
3:47 “What a great area of the country it is. I’ve only been in the airport, of course.”—Bill Raftery.
3:47 Strange play in Dayton. ETSU has a 2-on-0 break, and the trailing defender bumps the back guy, who then plays dominos and knocks the front guy off course for a layup. That’s one way to catch up when you’re behind the play—push down everyone in front of you.
3:48 ETSU shoots 71.5 percent from the line on the year, but they’ve already missed four free throws.
3:49 And trail by one.
3:49 I’m missing Gus Johnson. Let’s get some sound from Minneapolis.
3:50 This sums up my bracket experiences in a nutshell. If the games ended right now, I’d win two and lose two.
3:51 And the two I would lose would cost me a Sweet 16 team and an Elite Eight team.
3:51 The No. 1 team in the East region has 12 turnovers in the first 19 minutes of the game.
3:52 And they’re still up three. Either side could look at this as a positive, I think.
3:53 Christmas cheer in Miami. The Owls’ star guard has 19 points, while the rest of his team has combined for only 13.
3:54 Commercial alert: That child had spaghetti on his head. Yes, I said spaghetti.
3:54 End random commercial alert.
3:55 DeJuan Blair already has a double-double for Pitt. And halftime is yet to come.
3:56 Great defense by ETSU to force the 13th Panther turnover of the contest.
3:56 And the Bucs go coast-to-coast to cut the lead to one at the buzzer...but I think the shot was late. The refs are going to deny them the hoop. Great execution, but they needed an extra tenth of a second.
3:57 The loss of those points could come back to haunt the Bucs. 26-23 Pitt at the break. Stay tuned for hour number five—coming up shortly!