Countdown from the one sporting event that never, ever disappoints ...
5. As I said all along, my beloved Marquette Golden Warrior Eagles -- a.k.a. The Gold -- were shoo-ins for the Sweet Sixteen.
OK, so I was worried -- really, really worried -- that they'd lose their tourney opener to Xavier. Once the lads got past that one, though, I had a strange, unexplainable confidence heading into the Syracuse game. And boy, did the Warrior Eagles play well down the stretch Sunday night.
Makes me so proud, I'm thinking about flying to Milwaukee just to enjoy dollar pitchers at The Gym and then snarf down a bowl of Real Chili with extra oyster crackers!!
4. Thanks, CBS, for not hogging the whole tournament (and thereby doing half a job).
I really enjoyed the way the opening weekend was spread over four networks, letting every fan watch every minute of every game we wanted to watch.
Added bonus: With TNT/TBS in the picture, it meant we got treated to the broadcast team of Marv Albert and Steve Kerr.
Marv simply is the best hoops play-by-play man in history and, when he's not being a terrible NBA GM, Kerr is a talented analyst.
3. The clock snafu at the end of the Carolina-Washington game and a questionable 5-second call against Texas notwithstanding, it's been a strong tournament for the refs.
They have made several outstanding no-calls on late blocked shots and totally nailed the crazy end of Butler's win over Pitt by calling fouls that absolutely had to be called despite the general (and erroneous) belief that "you don't make those calls in the final seconds."
There. I said it. We rail at the refs when they stink, so they should get one of these (I'm doing the thumbs-up sign) when they excel.
2. Marquette and UConn are the only survivors of the 11 Big East teams that began the tournament, and lots of folks are whining about how overrated the conference is.
Look, nine of the 11 were absolute locks, and one of the other two teams -- mine -- now is one of the last 16 standing. Losing NCAA tourney games, most by slim margins, proves little about the strength of a conference as a whole.
I mean, Virginia Commonwealth beat both Georgetown and Purdue, so that means what? The Colonial is better than the Big East and Big Ten? And if BYU beats Florida and San Diego State defeats UConn in the regionals, it means the Mountain West is better than both the SEC and the Big East?
A few years ago, when all those Missouri Valley teams advanced, did it mean that conference suddenly had surpassed the ACC? Or last year, did Butler's amazing run mean the Horizon was the second-best league in the land?
You don't have to answer those rhetorical questions.
While we're on the Big East ... I'll admit I enjoyed Notre Dame getting spanked by Florida State. And I'm not especially surprised it happened. Marquette killed the Irish once this season and had them in trouble before blowing a lead in losing their other matchup.
All you do is put long, quick athletes on Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis, take away their 3-point shooting and force someone else to beat you. Meanwhile, you force Hansbrough and Abromaitis to defend on the other end.
And faster than you can say "green beer is stupid," Irish eyes ain't smiling.
One of my pet peeves during my time at Marquette was that so many of my Catholic friends (which meant just about all of my MU friends) hated ND basketball but loved ND football.
Feh. If you're a Warrior (or Golden Eagle, Hilltopper, Avalanche or even The Gold) , you don't root for Notre Effin Dame. Period.
1. So now my boys move on to face my new state team, North Carolina. I have to admit that "concern" isn't a strong enough word to describe my feeling about the matchup.
The Tar Heels are a little loose with the ball and they take a lot of dumb shots, but they are so athletic, so talented and so well-coached, they of course will be huge favorites over my 11th-seeded Golden Warrior Eagles.
Hey, I look at it this way: Carolina barely beat Washington, which a year ago barely beat Marquette in the tourney. Ipso fatso, we are due (and destined) for victory.
Or something like that.