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NCAA Tournament Running Diary: Day 1, Afternoon Games

“The first four days of the NCAA Tournament are a marathon, not a sprint.”

I’m sure somebody said that before but I’m going to claim it as my own for now. It’s no secret the first round (second round?) of the NCAA Tournament is the greatest four day weekend on the sports calendar. So naturally I’ve decided this momentous event deserves to be logged in real time.

This year, four others join me in the living room: my brother Grant, O’Con, Chef Lefty, and Shorts. Props to Chef Lefty for the Belgian waffles for breakfast.

11:12 a.m. (CST): Clemson-West Virginia about to tip off in about three minutes. How good did Clemson look Tuesday against UAB? Good enough for me to take them in the classic 12-5 upset.

11:17: Clemson wins the tip and we’re underway! We get our first look at how CBS has set up their on-screen graphics this year. We have the upcoming games at the top of the screen along with what channel the game is on. I like it.

11:19: Clemson extends their lead to 4-0.

O’Con: “This game is over.”

11:24: A Clemson foul takes us to the first commercial break of the day. Two years ago we created the “Commercial Game”. Basically you guess what commercial will come on next. It is a wildly entertaining distraction that gets you through the prison that is March Madness commercials. The first commercial of the 2011 tournament: “Bud Light Home Makeover”. If memory serves, I’m fairly certain this was the first commercial of Super Bowl XLV, also.

"Bud Light Home Makeover"

11:29: Clemson leading 10-4. Looks like they’re picking up right where they left off Tuesday night. I figured one team would win their “Second Round” game after coming out of the “First Four”. Clemson looks to be that team.

11:33: I almost forgot to comment on how today’s games are considered the “Second Round”. How silly is that? How many announcers will inadvertently refer to their game as a “First Round” matchup? I can’t wait!

11:37: During another commercial break, Grant switches the channel for the first time to truTV. I’m interested to see what kind of ratings they get in the next four days. Biggest weekend of the year for truTV. Old Dominion-Butler about to tip off.

11:42: After a slow start, West Virginia looks like they’ve settled in. A Mountaineer three cuts the deficit to four, 24-20.

ODU-Butler tips off in Washington, D.C. Apparently ODU is one of the best rebounding teams in the country. Rebounds are important, so I’ll take them over the Bulldogs.

Some bad news, I’ve been told ODU has a tough time scoring. Some more bad news, I just remembered they beat Notre Dame in Round 1 last year. Why do I think they’ll win again this year?

11:48: With commercials on both channels, the “Commercial Game” is back on. Nobody has gotten anything right since O’Con guessed “Bud Light” before the very first commercial. Correction: I’ve just been told that O’Con’s “Bud Light” pick has been voided. Apparently “Bud Light” wasn’t specific enough. Everyone tied at zero.

11:50: The breakdown of who has who: Grant, Chef Lefty, and I have Clemson over West Virginia. O’Con and Shorts are backing the Mountaineers. In the other game, Grant, Chef Lefty, and I have ODU, while O’Con is taking Butler.

Shorts: “I don’t know.”

11:56: Clemson-West Virginia is turning into a pretty entertaining game. Underrated sub-plot: What relation is Clemson’s Jerai Grant to former NBA player Horace Grant?

Everyone here: “I think he’s his nephew.”

Clemson continues to lead, 35-27 with 3:35 to play in the first half.

Horace Grant's nephew?

11:59: Back on truTV, ODU has opened up a 5-point lead over Butler. truTV has a show called “Big Brian and the Fortune Seller”. Good for Big Brian.

12:04: The NCAA Tournament always introduces college basketball fans to new players. More importantly, the tournament also introduces fans to cool/funny names. So far, the best name of the day: West Virginia’s Dalton Pepper.

12:07: Ian Eagle: “What do you call a team of CIA operatives who defy Intelligence? CHAOS! CBS this spring.

Chef Lefty: “I call it three episodes and canceled.”

Meanwhile, West Virginia has cut the lead to 40-37 just before halftime. They hold for the last shot and Kevin Jones nails a three to cap off a 9-0 run. 40-40 at the break.

12:12: Butler has come back to lead ODU with 4:38 to play in the first half. The “Commercial Game” isn’t getting much play this year. I suppose that’s a good thing, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed.

12:16: Grant flips over to TBS in preparation for the Louisville-Morehead St. game. Surprisingly TBS is airing a classic episode of “Family Guy”. I believe it’s called “McStroke”. “WHY ARE WE NOT FUNDING THIS?”

12:20: WVU-Clemson still at halftime. It feels like ODU-Butler has been on commercial for the past five minutes. Can’t wait until the next game starts in 20 minutes.

12:22: Update from O’Con: “Jerai Grant is Horace Grant’s nephew. They were talking about it today on ESPN.”

The mystery was better than the payoff.

12:25: ODU-Butler tied at 27 with the first half coming to a close. Looks like ODU will hold for the final shot. An out of control drive to the basket ends in a terrible miss, followed by ODU getting the offensive rebound and taking the lead. I’m starting to think that’s how ODU scored a lot of their points this year.

CHAOS! This April, on CBS.

12:32: Things are pretty quiet in the living room. Clemson-WVU second half begins. WVU takes their first lead of the game at 42-40.

“Commercial Game” standings:

Grant – 0
O’Con – 0
Chef Lefty – 0
Shorts – 0
Me – 0

You can imagine how exciting it gets when somebody scores.

12:39: WVU has continued their hot play into the second half. They lead 46-41 as my upset pick begins to look worse and worse. The Mountaineers are on a 15-1 run continued from the first half. Clemson’s Demontez Stitt breaks the run with a bucket. Add him to the list of names.

12:43: The third game of the day is underway! Kenneth Faried gives Morehead St. the 1-0 lead. Every year it seems there is a random 13 or 14 seed you would never expect to win. Morehead State fits the mold quite nicely. Random teams since 2005:

2005 – (14) Bucknell, (13) Vermont
2006 – (14) Northwestern State, (13) Bradley, (12) Montana
2007 – None
2008 – (13) Siena
2009 – (13) Cleveland State
2010 – (14) Ohio, (13) Murray State

12:52: WVU has opened up a big lead over Clemson. In Denver, Louisville can’t score as they trail 7-0 to Morehead State. The best game right now is ODU-Butler as the Monarchs lead by two. This Clemson game is even more disappointing considering how well they played for 80 percent of the first half.

12:57: WVU on a 28-7 run since they trailed 40-31 in the first half. I think there’s a lid on the Clemson hoop right now. After staying quiet for much of the first half O’Con and Shorts are letting us know how good West Virginia is.

Chef Lefty on WVU big man, and foreign born Deniz Kilicli: “Do you think he can open cans with his nose?”

Deniz Kilicli: A nose used for more than just smelling.

1:01: Morehead has extended their lead to 15-2. Meanwhile, Clemson is trying to stick around, but WVU can’t miss at this point. ODU leads Butler by a bucket with 14:12 to play. Hopefully Clemson can come back and make it an exciting finish.

1:08: With Clemson pretty much out of it, ODU-Butler should get television priority the rest of the way.

1:12: Update on Louisville-MHS: MHS leads 19-13 with 7:30 in the first half. Not surprisingly, everybody here has Louisville. Penn St.-Temple just tipped off moments ago. Grant, O’Con, and Shorts have Penn State, while Chef Lefty and I are taking Temple. I say there is no way the Owls play as poorly as they did last year.

1:15: Clemson finally manages a defensive stop. Demontez Stitt gets fouled and goes to the line for Clemson. I hope he makes the first, misses the second, rebounds and hits a three… he misses the first and makes the second. 72-64 WVU.

1:19: Back on truTV, ODU-Butler is still close. The Bulldogs lead by two with just under 10 minutes to play. MHS still leads Louisville and Penn St. has opened a small lead over Temple. Clemson has cut the lead to six. Maybe we can get a solid finish out of game one.

1:24: With 1:49 remaining Clemson cuts the lead to three. WVU’s Joe Mazzulla picks up his dribble across half court, falls to the floor and draws the foul. What an awful call! The refs bailed him out after he made the bonehead play of the day. Gotta love the officiating in the Tourney! WVU goes on a 6-0 run after the gift call. See ya Clemson.

1:30: A minute remains in Clemson’s season. Butler and ODU are still close. Louisville has finally cut into the MHS lead.

I’m still mad about the officiating in the Clemson-WVU game. That game could have been an excellent finish but we’ll never know what would have happened if they had just let them play.

1:36: WVU finally puts Clemson away, 84-76. Needless to say Grant, Chef Lefty, and I are already bitter about the day. It could get worse as Butler leads ODU by two with three minutes and change to play.

1:39: With ODU-Butler coming to an end, the conversation shifts to lunch. Chef Lefty is preparing to make Philly Cheese Steaks.

Grant: “His cheese steaks are the best tasting food in the world.”

1:43: ODU-Butler coming down the wire. Butler leads by four with under two minutes to play. Blaine Taylor, the head coach of ODU, looks a lot like Stan Van Gundy of the Phoenix Suns.

Chef Lefty: “He looks like a cross between Saddam Hussein and Stan Van Gundy.”

We’ll go with that.

ODU head coach Blaine Taylor.

1:48: ODU has the ball down two with 0:36 seconds to play. Kent Bazemore is fouled and steps to the line for the Monarchs. He calmly knocks them both down. Butler holds for the final shot as Shelvin Mack drives and gets tripped up, falls down and throws up a prayer. The ball is tipped and falls into the hands of Butler’s Matt Howard who lays it in with 0.2 seconds remaining. Butler takes down ODU as Grant, Chef Lefty, and I fall to 0-2 on the day.

1:54: Everyone is taking a break as Louisville-MHS is tied at the half. PSU-Temple is a close game with 1:00 to play in the first half. Philly Cheese Steaks are coming right up. Admittedly I’m not a fan of the famous sandwiches from Philadelphia. I’ve taken a lot of heat for that.

2:00: Louisville is starting to take control of the game. Morehead State had a 15-2 lead at one point. I realize there was a lot of game left, but I can’t imagine it feels very good to squander that kind of lead. Louisville leads 38-37 with 16 minutes to play.

2:10: Not much action right now. Princeton-Kentucky just tipped off on CBS. I think it’s surprising that CBS is willing to share the ratings of these First Ro… I mean “Second Round” games. Obviously they had to have made a lucrative deal with Turner to broadcast every game. Still, the NCAA Tournament is one of those things CBS will never give up, so it’s surprising they decided to share the wealth.

2:16: It has been halftime in the PSU-Temple game for 15 minutes.

Grant: “Wait, Penn State is losing.”

2:25: I’ve been taking a slight break. For lunch I’ve settled with Wendy’s while the rest of the crew enjoys their sandwiches. Morehead State trails 48-47 with 8:14 to play. Louisville fans have to be horrified. Give MHS credit for not going away. On a related note, that may be the biggest cliché I’ve used all day.

2:37: Terrance Hill nails a three for MHS to increase their lead to 57-52 with 5:16 to play. The MHS players are really getting into it! This game is getting into “Get Back Guy” territory. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, the “Get Back Guy” is a member of a team, usually a big underdog, who doesn’t really play at all. Whenever his team makes a great play, you will see the “Get Back Guy” celebrate before instinctively extending his arms away from his body to make sure his teammates don’t flood out on to the court.

Things you look for in a “Get Back Guy”:

1. How often does he play? The best “Get Back Guys” only step on the court during pregame and halftime warm-ups.
2. Is he still wearing his warm-up gear late into the second half? (This usually coincides with #1)
3. Does he have a towel around his neck or on his shoulder?
4. Does he have an above average wingspan?

*Number 4 isn’t a requirement, but is definitely preferred.

Simply put, Morehead State has extreme “Get Back Guy” potential right now.

2:40: MHS has 18 offensive rebounds to only five for Louisville. How does that happen to a Big East team? 57-56 MHS with 2:50 to play.

2:47: Peyton Siva drives and dishes off for a dunk as Louisville extends their lead to 61-57 with over a minute to play.

O’Con: “Wow, dirty drive.”

Chef Lefty: “He should get tested after that drive.”

2:50: Louisville misses the first free throw of a 1-and-1. MHS gets the rebound and takes a timeout with 0:25 seconds left. Will they play for the last shot, or try and go quick in case they miss?

How tense is this? We aren’t changing the channel to another game during the commercial timeout. 61-59, Louisville.

2:53: MHS sets up a play for Demonte Harper to isolate his defender one-on-one. Instead of driving he steps back and drills a go-ahead three! MHS takes a 62-61 lead with 3.6 seconds remaining. Timeout Louisville. The refs put time back on the clock. 4.2 seconds for Louisville to get a shot off. Peyton Siva is immediately trapped after taking the inbounds pass. He is able to get a pass down to the other end for a last second 3-point attempt. Kenneth Faried blocks the shot as Morehead State continues the trend of weird, random teams advancing to the Second Ro… err, “Third Round” of the NCAA Tournament! The exciting finish drops Grant, Chef Lefty, and I to 0-3 on the day. O’Con and Shorts lose their first game to drop to 2-1.

Kenneth Faried and Morehead State are the latest 13-seed to pull an upset on Day 1.

2:59: Our sights shift to the ending of the Temple-PSU game. Temple leads 58-57 with 3:00 to play. The living room is quite somber right now. In other action, Pittsburgh leads UNC-Asheville 26-17 late in the first half. And in Tampa, Kentucky is edging Princeton 34-33 at the half.

3:05: Temple leads 62-61 with 56.9 seconds remaining. The Nittany Lions have the ball as they look to drop my record to 0-4 on the day. Excellent stop by Temple as Lavoy Allen is waiting in the lane to reject a Penn State drive. Juan Fernandez steps to the line for Temple after a PSU foul. He makes the first free throw before a timeout is called. “Commercial Game” is still pretty much dead and buried. It’s a shame, really.

Chef Lefty: “He’s going to make this free throw and then Taylor Battle will make a tying three for Penn State.”

Back to action as Fernandez makes the second free throw. Taylor Battle makes a tying three for Penn State to tie the game at 64. Ridiculous.

3:10: 11.4 seconds remain as Temple inbounds the ball.Fernandez dribbles just inside the three-point line, endures the double-team and makes an awkward jumper with 0.4 seconds remaining. Chef Lefty and I finally pick up that elusive first win of the day.

Grant: “I have not tasted sweet victory yet.”

After four games, the standings look like this:

O’Con – 2-2
Shorts – 2-2
Chef Lefty – 1-3
Me – 1-3
Grant – 0-4

3:13: Watching replays of Temple’s final game winning shot and we have found our first “Get Back Guy” of the day.

Chef Lefty: “Not one person was getting on that court. He could have held back the entire arena.”

Grant: “He knows why he’s on that bench. Everyone else came to play. He did too.”

I love the NCAA Tournament.

All he's missing is the towel.

3:21: Princeton looking to match Morehead State with another 13 over 4 upset. They lead Kentucky 36-34 early in the second half. Vandy-Richmond about to tip off in what is probably the most popular 12-5 upset pick. I took Vanderbilt because it’s hard for me to imagine Vanderbilt being upset in the “Second Round” two years in a row. Well, I guess last year it was actually the First Round. Whatever.

4:06: Apologies. I took a huge break, and by huge break I mean I gave up on the diary because my bracket sucks right now and nothing was really going on. Well things have gotten interesting as the Kentucky-Princeton game is tied at 57 with 0:20 seconds to play. Kentucky has the ball and is trying to hold for the last shot. Brandon Knight drives the lane and floats a layup into the hoop. Kentucky leads by two with 0:02 seconds remaining. What a bummer for Princeton. The March Madness gods will only allow one 13-seed to win in one day.

During the long break, the living room crew changed “buzzer beaters” to “Howies” after Matt Howard’s buzzer beater earlier for Butler. I don’t like it.

Princeton can’t convert the half court “Howie” as Kentucky survives.

4:11: Pitt-Asheville, Vandy-Richmond, and SDSU-N. Colorado are the final three games remaining. Vanderbilt leads Richmond by five with plenty of time to play.

Grant: “I finally taste victory.”

4:30: I’ve been surfing the internet for the past 15 minutes. Nothing much going on in terms of games. Pittsburgh is taking care of UNC-Asheville, while SDSU is leading Northern Colorado 30-24 at the half. Vanderbilt leads Richmond 35-32 at the half.

I feel a lot better now about Pittsburgh. They were struggling against Asheville early, but they’ve taken control with 2:30 to play. I have the Panthers in the Final Four, which I’m not too terribly happy about.

4:32: “Commercial Game” is still a no-go. Everybody has lost interest in everything that’s going on. At least commercials have taught us the only car 16-year-old girls can drive is a Subaru.

You, You there! It's called a "Howie" now!

4:38: Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery are back for the second half of Vandy-Richmond. Right out of the gate Richmond hits a three and gets fouled. The ref who made the call emphatically counted the bucket by pumping his fist in a downward motion. He’s got Richmond in the Sweet-16.

4:42: Vanderbilt scores to make it 44-37.

Verne Lundquist: “And that’s a nine-nothing Vanderbilt run! … err, I beg your pardon.”

Both teams had traded baskets for the previous four possessions.

4:44: Chef Lefty and Shorts decide to pass the time by using their phones to reflect sunlight into people’s eyes. 48-42, Vanderbilt.

4:48: Windows Phone can do pretty much everything. Why would you want Netflix on your phone? I can’t imagine that’s good for battery life.

4:52: Richmond’s Kevin Anderson scores six straight points on back-to-back threes to tie the game at 48. The Spiders have injected some much needed life into this game.

5:15: Me talking about Vandy-Richmond: “Both these teams are shooting the lights out.”

Chef Lefty: “I’m surprised the court is still illuminated.”

O’Con: “They’re using the backup generators now.”

Vanderbilt hits one of two free throws to cut the lead to one. Richmond leads 64-63 with under four minutes to play in Denver.

5:19: We’ve decided the “Napa Know How” commercial is the best of the day. You know you’ve made a funny commercial when it still makes you laugh after five viewings.

5:26: Richmond-Vandy may be coming down to another “Howie”. Everybody immediately starts to pay attention when Vandy gets possession down two points. Lance Goulbourne goes to the line for Vandy after he is fouled. He makes one of two as Richmond takes over.

5:40: Richmond pulls off the upset after Vandy’s weak last second 3-point attempt falls short.

Me: “Another Vanderbilt choke job in March. They suck.”

Grant: “They would be good as a 12-seed.”

The first eight games are in the books. The standings:

O’Con – 6-2
Shorts – 6-2
Chef Lefty – 5-3
Me – 4-4
Grant – 3-5


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