Opening thought: The next week and a half will be busy, busy, busy, and that's not because of basketball. I have 4 different things due on Friday, plus 2 exams next Mon. and Wed., so it'll be lotsa work with not much rest in between. That's ok, because the light at the end of the tunnel is near. After next Wed., work really backs off and I'll actually have some time to do more exit paper work and job hunting.
Let me just say this was the best Spring Break I can remember because I got to enjoy the game I love with some really close people. Thanks Dad, Nick, and Brad, especially Brad for making the trip up from IU to join us Thurs. and Sat. Thanks Brad, you're the man.
So first, here are the highlights from Indianapolis, beginning with Thursday (there will be pics forthcoming in the near future):
- I'd like to see how tailgating for UK bball compares to UK football, because there were quite a few tailgating outside of the Dome.
- The RCA Dome isn't the most impressive arena I've been in, but they configure it very nicely for bball. We were in the 2nd deck and our seats were better than Upper Arena seats at UD Arena. The court is well lit and sight angles are very good.
- From start to finish, our 1st game, Kentucky/Eastern Kentucky was the best game. UK maintained a nice lead throughout, but EKU made a run in the last 10 minutes, getting within 5 a couple of times to make it interesting. It's fun to watch the neutral crowd get behind the underdog. The noise gives you goose bumps and reminds you why you're there and why you love bball. Sadly, there was no Ashley Judd, which was a huge disappointment to us all.
- The 2nd game was UC-Iowa, and although I strongly felt Iowa shouldn't have been in the Tourney, I picked them. That was a mistake, along with letting Iowa in the field. UC toyed with them, showing off, including pulling the play of the day, Jason Maxiell's dunk off an alleyoop in the 2nd half which brought the crowd of 27,000+ to their feet. Iowa was never really in the game.
- Then, there was the appearance of Nick Lachey at the game. WHAT A POSER!!!! He had 1st row seats, wearing a UC jersey with his name on the back. My brother got a great picture of him taking a pic with a very cute UK girl (picture will be shown later after my bro sends them to me) near the end of the game. There were no MTV cameras or Jessica, which was interesting. Instead of Ashley Judd, we get Nick Lachey instead, give me a break.
- Also, during the game, about 5 rows in front of us was a UC fan, a probably in his 70s, who would do his best Richard Nixon impersonation everytime UC scored. He would raise his arms and give the Victory sign, dancing in his place. He would've easily won Craziest Fan, if not for a guy we saw on Saturday.
- Dinner was spent in the Mall at Johnny Rockets, which have the best hamburgers and atmosphere. Nothing but Motown hits and dancing waitresses, which was a perfect intermission from basketball. Downtown Indianapolis was very nice. There were a lot of sports bars around, and it being St. Patrick's Day, there were a lot of people downtown, so it was fun.
- Game 3 was Texas/Nevada, a close, but not real exciting game. Many of the fans in the house at that were point were Illinois supporters, who had been there all day waiting for their team. The loudest ovation during the game was for the Illinois pep band coming out.
- Finally, it was time for Illinois/FDU, a game where we, and the rest of the Orange Crush around us thought would never be close. The loudest roar of the day came when Illinois took the floor in pregame warmups. But, the 1st half was close, with FDU playing out of their mind. Illinois came out flat, making silly mistakes, keeping FDU in it. The Kentucky fans who had stayed, and us were going nuts. When FDU hit an NBA 3 to cut the Illini lead to 1 at halftime, the place went nuts, while the Illini faithful were stunned. Would we be present for the first 16 to ever beat a 1? Illinois woke up and edged the lead out to win, but that first 20 minutes was unbelievable. I don't know if I've ever been on the edge of my seat as much as I was for that 1st half.
- The undercard was Illinois/Nevada, with the main bout to be UK/UC. We knew we were in for a treat when we walked in and saw people sitting in the obstructed view seats behind the court. Illinois came ready to play and were in control throughout. The Illinois fans are more of your bandwagon sort honestly. I compare them to Michigan St. and how big their following became once they became a Top 15 team. Illinois has never had this big of a following, so they're not as intense, which is evidenced by so many Illini taking pictures. You don't see UK fans taking pictures because they expect to be there every year.
- Some of the Illinois coeds sitting around us deserve simply a "Wow". You didn't have to go down south to see some beautiful women, let's just say that.
- Fan of the Weekend: This goes to the balding 50 year old Illinois fan who was a couple of rows in front of us. In addition to having his orange shirt, he had his matching Dee Brown orange headband. Let me remind you this guy was 50 and balding. I told my dad I never want to see him wearing a headband. Then, to top it all off, when the Illinois pep band broke in that song (don't know the official name, sorry), "Oooohh ooohhh" (the one where you jump and down, more commonly heard at hockey), this guy started jumping up and down as well. Priceless.
- Then it was time for UK/UC, who hadn't played each other in 15 years. The UK fans went nuts when their team took the floor. I'm trying to remember if I've ever heard a louder roar at a sporting event and I don't think I have. 20,000 UK fans were louder than 100,000 Michigan football fans, no joke. I've never been in such an electric atmosphere. This game was what tournament bball is all about. The crowd was into it on EVERY possession, allowing the noise to hang over the court. As UC got back into the game, they became more vocal, more confident after being intimidated by the early UK roars. But, Nick Lachey's presence wasn't enough for UC to hang on in the end.
- After the game, the UK fans became really obnoxious. They let you know every step of the way out of the arena that their team was the best. If I hear the words of "Go Big Blue" again, I may seriously hurt you.
- 9 of my Sweet 16 made it, 5 of my final 8, 3 of my Final 4, and my winner (Illinois).
- After watching them in person twice, Illinois is definitely not the most talented team in the country, but whenever they needed a big play, they got it, and that's a true sign of a winner. As good as Deron Williams is, Luther Head is their go-to guy. Whenever they need a big shot, they go to him and he delivers.
- Still, the best thing Kentucky has going for them is their depth. They beat UC because they wore them out in the end, forcing UC to miss 15 of their last 16 shots by taking away their legs. Kentucky was saved by halftime last night because UC was dictating play, but after the extended halftime, UK got their composure back and took control of the game. Rajon Rondo was really impressive last night, making 3s and athletic plays.
- Louisville may be the hottest team in the country right now. The Ragin Cajuns were game Friday night, but ran out of gas, while the Cards jumped on Georgia Tech with hot 3 point shooting. Francisco Garcia was the best player of the weekend I saw, making plays, and more importantly, making some shots as well. If Louisville can keep shooting well, they'll be tough to beat.
- North Carolina, Arizona, and Washington were also impressive, having little trouble in their first 2 games while everyone else seemed to be tested at least once. But, it's fair to say both will be challenged in the next round.
- Duke is like a prize fighter on the ropes. They're really vulnerable, but no one can seem to knock them out. This is the best defensive Duke team I've ever seen.
- Michigan St. gets a rematch with the Dukies. They played them tough earlier in the year at Cameron, losing by 7. Sparty though hasn't beaten anyone that's better than them all year. They have the athletes to knock off Duke, but can they match Duke's toughness?
- Oklahoma St. had 2 tougher than expected games in Oklahoma City, but they survived both. They still need to be more consistent, especially defensively if they're going to beat Arizona and get their shot at Illinois.
- I still think Villanova will knock off North Carolina. If they get their normal games from their starters and get production off the bench, UNC will be stunned by how Villanova can match them in overall talent.
- If Darryl Dora and Damon Giles play like the way they did in the 2nd half vs. Gonzaga, Texas Tech will go to the Final 4, no joke, assuming their guards continue to shoot the ball well.
- West Virginia and UW-Milwaukee need to keep shooting the ball well if they're going to keep advancing. UW-Milwaukee is a smaller version of Illinois, literally. They rely on the perimeter shot from Ed McCants and Joah Tucker, as does WVU with Kevin Pittsnoggle.
- I hope I don't have to watch Wisconsin/NC State. This will be a game in the 50s, with whoever is able to make more shots and limit turnovers winning the game.
- Then there's Utah, who looked so pedestrian in losing to New Mexico last week, now in the Sweet 16 after their guards decided to play this past weekend. Who would've thought Utah would win a game when Andrew Bogut would only score 10 points? Thanks for busting my bracket Utah.
- After making runs in their conference tournaments, Syracuse, Florida, and Georgia Tech are all gone. They are the prime reason for why bigger conferences don't like playing conference tournaments. Teams make the excuse they are already emotionally rundown after playing conference tourneys and can't get back up for the NCAAs. Take a look at the smaller conferences, where every game is an elimination game of some sort, yet they seem to do just fine.
- Oklahoma's guards let me down. How do you lose a game when you attempt 29 more shots than your opponent, yet make one less field goal???
- After having a great February, UConn's backcourt regressed in March. Marcus Williams and Denham Brown were more erratic, reverting their old ways. I wonder if the return of Rashard Anderson disrupted the nice chemistry they had going.
- Wake Forest needs to do nothing but work on defensive drills all summer. How do you give up 50 points to West Virginia in a half???
- Bill Self needs to go out and recruit some guards who can SHOOT!!!! They made 1 3, ONE against Bucknell in the 1st round. As great as Wayne Simien was, he can't overcome that by himself.
- Sweet 16 breakdown: ACC (3), Big Ten (3), Big 12 (2), Big East (2), Pac 10 (2), SEC (1), Horizon (1), Mountain West (1), C-USA (1)
Songs in my head: "Set Me Free", the Supremes and "Disco Inferno", 50 Cent.
Craving: MORE CORNED BEEF, yummy!!!! (It's great to have a little Irish blood in ya.)