I started something this March that I hope becomes a tradition. I took off work Thursday and Friday to watch the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, figuring it made more sense to waste neither my company's time nor my clients by being at the office, but only physically, as my head would be elsewhere while I streamed all 32 first round games online live from my office. Productivity went out the window as soon as CBS did me the favor of streaming the games online a couple of years ago, and I took advantage, as I'm sure many of you probaby did as well. Not this year. Instead of wearing a suit and tie and pretending to do work-related activities I donned pajamas and a t-shirt and watched every game live from my girlfriend's couch. I wore a blister on my thumb from switching between four channels to watch multiple games simulatneously. Life was good. That is until basically all 16 games on Thursday sucked. No excitement. No upsets. No buzzer beaters. Just a single tease. Belmont had Duke on the ropes all game only to cave at the end. Who didn't see that coming? Fast-forward twenty-four hours later. Thank God for Friday. Thank you Siena. A bigger thank you to Western Kentucky. That was the best end of game scenario I've seen since Bryce Drew, son of Valparaiso Coach Homer Drew, nailed a three pointer from China at the buzzer to propel his Valparaiso team into the Sweet 16. I think that was ten years ago or so. As soon as Ty Rogers, a kid who looked more like a Western Kentucky farm boy than a Western Kentucky basketball player, hit a desperation three pointer to seal Drake's fate, one thought came to my mind: Is it just me or is it always some really awkward looking white kid hitting game-winning shots for the Cinderella team in the Tournament? Muscled, athletic black guys do it game in and game out during the regular season. But as soon as the Big Dance rolls around, you're guaranteed at least one game in which some white kid, who either looks like he should be smoking marijuana at a Dave Matthews concert or plowing fields in Idaho, becomes an instant hero with the whole country watching on national television. Maybe it's the basketball Gods way of smiling on unathletic white kids whose future no doubt includes selling Chevys at the local dealership or obtaining partner status at a prominent hometown law firm, while the more talented black athletes go on to make millions at the next level. Sure there are a few white dudes who make it, but those occurences are fewer and fewer these days. Still, if someone offered me the chance to take a game winning shot in the Dance, I'd take it. It seems like a fair consolation prize to me. I'm just saying.
A few other tourney thoughts:
You people who don't watch college basketball are really missing out. Aside from the intensity of the game play during the regular season, and especially the tournament with all its unpredictability, there are a few other things that make it so great. One of my favorites is the announcers. Dick Vitale is great on ESPN during the regular season, but the tournament calls for a mix of others, thankfully. For me, it just isn't the tournament without Jim Nantz opening each broadcast with a familiar "Hello, friends," Billy Packer's unbaised negativity towards the play of every team, Dick Enberg screaming "OHHHHH, MYYYYY!!" when that previously aforementioned white kid with the 80's headband and shaggy hair hits a ridiculous game winner from the tenth row, or Bill Raftery yelling "Onions!" or "A little kiss!" during an improbable comeback. This also reminds me that it is indeed, March.
Team to beat: North Carolina. Yes, I'm a Tar Heels homer. But if you watched all the teams play this weekend and don't agree that the Heels were BY FAR the most impressive team to take the court, you're an idiot. Eclipsing the century mark two consecutive games in the NCAA Tournament? Are you serious? It's been 18 years since a team did that (Loyola Marymount). If they're not cutting down the nets two Monday nights from now, consider it a MAJOR surprise, and an even bigger upset.
Star of the Tournament: Stephen Curry of Davidson. The kid droppped 40 on Gonzaga Friday afternoon, then proceeded to drop 30 on Georgetown Sunday afternoon (27 of which was in the second half to complete a 17 point comeback), and he's only a sophomore, though he doesn't look a day older than 16. Did I mention he dropped 30 in his first ever NCAA Tourmanent game last season? If you're keeping score at home that's a 33.3 scoring average in the tournament, and no one outside of Davidson and one other small school recruited the kid. I'd say it's a safe bet every other Division One coach in the country is wondering how they missed him. Oh, I should also mention it doesn't hurt that his mom is a total MILF. If you didn't see her, just imagine if Vanessa Williams had a slightly hotter twin sister. Yeah, like I was saying, MILF.
UCLA is overrated, as is Tennessee and Memphis. We all knew Duke was overrated all season.
A random Easter thought: Does anyone actually eat those marshmallow "Peeps" things you see at the store?