As always, the cure for the blogging blues is to talk about sports or hiking, both pretty safe topics for me. And what better way than to break the blog-slump? A running diary of March Madness! Oh, you’re gonna love this! But, not the usual first-round games on Thursday, but the stupid play-in game on Tuesday. This should give me plenty of time to catch up on other bloggable news, since I doubt the game will be much to watch. I mean, Winthrop and Arkansas-Pine Bluff? Good grief…
I’ve decided to fully bachelor the evening, just like the good ole days (which happen to still be present). I have a Bill Simmons’ BS Report podcast playing, a pizza in the oven, and the television on mute. Do I need to make the requisite “I have no life” jokes? I don’t think so. Let’s get to it.
7:30, they’re showing the pregame speeches in the locker rooms. The Winthrop locker room consists of a balding, middle-aged white man trying to fire up a team of young, bored-looking black men.
7:37, the BS Report ends just as the tip-off goes up. Good timing, Sports Guy. Winthrop is wearing “garnet and gold,” according to the play-by-play guy. I wonder if his wife told him to say that. It’s called “red and yellow” to the rest of us.
7:39, only 93 seconds in, and we have our first points, after three fouls. I don’t know if I can take two hours of this.
Seriously, the play-in game has to go. This is almost as dumb as the BCS, which is really saying something. Why not have one fewer at-large team? Who isn’t okay with that? Or go the other way and have an equal number of play-in games per region – 4 or 8 or even 36? I had a good idea for a 100-team tournament, with the top 7 seeds getting byes, and having a play-in round of seeds 8-25. I like my idea better. But really, why rob these guys of having the experience of playing against a marquee team? Isn’t that a big part of what makes it such a great event?
7:42, the pizza is ready. I have to tear myself away from this riveting game for a minute. I forget: which team is wearing the garnet and gold again?
7:50, “Neither team will be looking to push the ball much tonight.” Oh goodie. Even better than a crappy game is a slow-paced crappy game. I wonder how many people made the drive from Pine Bluff to Dayton, Ohio, for this one? Or from Winthropville?
7:51, I’ll admit: not only is the “five dollar footloooong” really catchy, the mermaid is pretty hot. Or maybe just all mermaids are hot. I’m not sure. Again, I’m 32, single, and live in rural Vermont. I really do have no life.
7:55, they’re scrolling the upcoming games at the bottom and Vermont/Syracuse just came up. I still rank the 2005 Vermont victory over Syracuse as one of my top 5 fan experiences. Loved it. Can’t wait for the Catamounts to take out the ‘Cuse again.
I normally don’t care much at all about the women’s tournament, but it is worth noting that both UVM and JMU are in it, and those are the only teams I follow in women’s hoops. Go Catamounts and Dukes!
8:02, commercial for the World Cup using U2’s “City of Blinding Lights” = awesome. ESPN just combined two of my favorite things. If they could have weaved in a cheesecake, that would be the best commercial ever.
8:05, after sucking up for a while, the announcers are interviewing Don Guerrero, the chair of the Selection Committee, that everyone (besides the announcers) thinks did a crap job. Totally dodged the “why are the regions so freaking imbalanced?” question.
8:07, Don just said, “Sometimes we take breaks to watch a few minutes of a game.” You’re the selection committee and you occasionally take breaks to catch a few minutes? Wow.
8:08, okay, so I hate this bracket more than any other bracket ever. I usually don’t complain at all about bubble teams, and same goes with this year. But the seeding was just awful. Plus, they have so many Cinderella teams playing against each other early: UTEP/Butler, Xavier/Minnesota, Texas A&M/Utah State, Notre Dame/ODU, Richmond/St. Mary’s, Temple/Cornell, Oklahoma State/Georgia Tech, UNLV/UNI, Tennessee/SDSU. That’s nine games featuring some of my favorite “these guys could surprise people” teams. Meanwhile, we have total stay-away games like Texas/Wake Forest, Clemson/Missouri, Marquette/Washington, Cal/Louisville, Purdue/Siena, and Gonzaga/FSU. I really hate this bracket. It’s going to be an excruciating first round.
By the way, thanks Don. Maybe next year you should watch a few more games.
8:11, commercial break. First: the women’s tourney. Sorry, ESPN, that didn’t give me anything – no desire to watch, no goosebumps, no nothing. Second: Heineken; I’m not sure how I feel about the “boss’ hot daughter” character. She looks like she could be 6’2” and 62 pounds, but she does have an incredibly beautiful face, especially the eyes and cheekbones. I guess I need to drink more Heineken to properly decide.
8:21, Winthrop wins! (the “who has the hotter cheerleaders” contest) That wasn’t even close. Maybe I should figure out where Winthrop is. I thought it was in Tennessee? Yes? No? Is it halftime yet? Do I have Heineken?
8:25, halftime. Finally. I guess I’m rooting for UAPB; it’s their first time in the tourney and they seem like the feel-good story, despite the fact that their cheerleaders look exactly like what I’d expect young women in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to look like. They’re up by a point, by the way. I’m switching over to the UConn/Northeastern NIT game.
8:32, yeah! Northeastern, from the underappreciated CAA (JMU’s league), is winning in Storrs by 3 with 8 minutes left. I hate UConn, and I love the CAA, so this is sweet.
8:44, not likely I’ll be going back to Winthrop and my beloved UAPB Golden Lions until Northeastern/UConn is over. Northeastern is hanging on, up 5 with 3:50 to go.
8:51, tied up with 100 seconds left. Northeastern ball. I’m getting nervous.
8:59, well that sucked. UConn ended on a 7-0 run to win by 2. Even after missing a free throw, UConn survived after Northeastern kinda made a sucky last-second attempt to tie the game. Crap, UConn won. Crap, the CAA lost. Crap, now I have to watch Winthrop/UAPB again.
9:03, the first thing I watch? Two missed free throws and then a missed lay-up, followed by a guy stepping out of bounds while dribbling. Only 12 minutes left in this game. By the way, good luck against Duke.
9:15, UAPB by 11 with 9 minutes to go. I can only imagine the raucous parties in the streets of Pine Bluff tonight. I hope there’s plenty of Heineken.
9:29, UAPB by 11 with 4 minutes to go. This game can’t end soon enough. I’m imagining the Duke team sitting around watching this game together and just cracking up. This is like playing Wake Forest’s JV team. Good God, another timeout. Please just keep the clock running.
9:35, William & Mary against North Carolina coming up. Another chance for a CAA team to beat a team I hate. There really aren’t too many college teams I hate; in fact, here’s the list: UConn, UNC, Virginia, Miami (FL), and USC. That’s about it. Can’t stand any of them and root against them at any possible moment. Fortunately, they all stink in basketball this year. Anyway, I’ll be rooting for William & Mary.
9:39, up 13 with less than a minute, UAPB is starting to celebrate. I’m telling you: mayhem in Pine Bluff tonight. Good for them, though. Good story, they play a tough non-conference schedule, and now they get to lose to Duke by 40 on national television.
9:42, UAPB, 61-44. Yay! That was thrilling. I guess I’ll make my predictions while I’m here. As always, I make tons of different brackets and could see lots of different viable scenarios playing out, but here goes: Sweet Sixteen: Kansas over UNI, Maryland over MSU, Georgetown over SDSU, Ohio State over OSU; Syracuse over FSU, UTEP over Murray State (whoever wins the Butler/UTEP game knocks off Syracuse), Xavier over Pitt, Kansas State over BYU; Kentucky barely over Texas, Temple over Wisconsin (after barely beating Cornell), Marquette over UNM, West Virginia over Clemson; Duke over Louisville (barely), Texas A&M over Siena, Baylor over Notre Dame (I could see Baylor, UND, or ODU going to the Elite Eight), Richmond over Villanova. Final Four: Kansas over Ohio State, Kansas State over UTEP, West Virginia over Temple, Texas A&M over Richmond. Championship: Kansas over West Virginia.
Let the Madness begin!