There are times as a writer where you don’t know where to start a story because there’s just nothing interesting in your material, and you’re reaching, clawing through your notebook hoping to find something that doesn’t stink.
Then there are times, like when you’ve watched four days of sensational, amazing, exhausting but oh so much fun NCAA Tournament, and you’ve got so much in your brain you could start with, you really don’t know where to start.
A warning: If you don’t care about college basketball or the NCAA Tournament, this blog will be a whole lot of words that won’t interest you. I’ve got a non-NCAA Tournament item at the end if you want to hang in there.
OK, of course I know where we have to start. We have to start with the University of Maryland Baltimore-County, a small school in Catonsville, Md., that scored for my money the biggest non-Olympics upset in sports history Friday night. UMBC, a No. 16 seed, did something no other 16 seed had ever done: It beat a No. 1 seed.
And not just any 1 seed, a dominant 1 seed like Virginia. I have to say, watching the game from my couch Friday night with a new friend, we were sitting there in shock, not just because a 16 was beating a 1 (I always knew it would happen someday, the difference between 16’s and 1’s isn’t as big as it used to be), but HOW it happened. I always figured the titanic upset over a 1 seed would happen with a 40-foot crazy buzzer-beater or something like that.
But this, this was a blowout. The Retrievers destroyed the Cavs, and it wasn’t even close the final five minutes. My buddy Scott turned to me with a minute to go and said “This is crazy! It’s anti-climactic, there’s no drama because UMBC has been so far ahead the last 10 minutes!”
It’s true, the score never got into single digits the last 10 minutes of the game. What a moment, what a wonderful, crazy moment for some scrappy, overlooked players who no one thought could win.
Sure, UMBC wasn’t able to keep it going, losing a close one Sunday night. But man, they have given all of us a memory that will last a lifetime.
— Laughed out loud at this Tweet by @netw3rk after the Retrievers lost Sunday night: “UMBC didn’t get eliminated, they just live at a farm upstate now.”
— So many other great stories in the Tournament so far, but after UMBC’s stunning upset my next favorite thing has been Loyola-Chicago, and their remarkable pair of wins over Miami in the first round and then Tennessee in Round 2.
They’re a veteran team who hasn’t been anywhere near this far in more than 30 years, and suddenly they’ve slayed two Goliaths and they’ve got a 98-year-old team chaplain named Sister Jean Delores Schmidt (above) who is just the most adorable thing ever. When a reporter asked Sister Jean Sunday how it felt to be a national celebrity, she replied “Not to correct you, dear, but international.”
Loyola, a team whose players used to hand out free hot dogs coupons to students to get them to come to games, is in the Sweet 16 with a great shot to win, and I’m just pissed that next game they’re playing my other favorite story of this tournament…
— Nevada! Two phenomenal comebacks by a No. 7 seed, including coming back from 22 points down to win Sunday over No. 2 seed Cincinnati. Their coach, Eric Musselman, was a tad excited after the game, and I’m so proud that I know a grad, my excellent friend Kristen, and I’m rambling now but it really was a hell of a comeback by them Sunday.
— Oh yeah, Duke, the team I root for. Honestly there was so much other great stuff this weekend that I’m glad my Blue Devils didn’t cause me much stress. Two outstanding wins, pretty easily attained over Iona and Rhode Island, and Trevon Duval played outstanding. He really is the key to Duke going further. Marvin Bagley III was phenomenal, the bench contributed well, but the freshman point guard Duval is the whole key. If he’s playing great, Duke can win the title.
— So Saturday night, last game of the evening, Houston-Michigan. Cougars up by 2, and Devin Davis Jr. of Houston steps up to the foul line with just four seconds left. Davis misses both.
And then this happened…Jordan Poole for the win.
**And then, in a moment of pure class, watch as Michigan star Moritz Wagner notices a despondent Davis standing on the court, in shock at how his team just lost. And Wagner stops and does this. Absolutely, that kid has been raised right.
— A couple of words about the two biggest disappointments this weekend. Virginia, obviously, was humiliated, losing to a 16 seed and getting embarrassed along the way. I have to give much credit to their coach Tony Bennett, who handled everything with class after the game, but wow, this is going to be hard to recover from. He’s built an amazing program in Charlottesville but this is three of the last four years they’ve gone out early in March after having a tremendous regular season.
— And then there was Michigan State, who laid a big egg Sunday against Syracuse. Absolutely no excuse for a team as talented as the Spartans are to lose to the Orange, and miss so many open shots. Lot of things have to go wrong for Michigan State to lose that game, and lots of things did.
–Finally Two absolute trends in this year’s Tournament: 1, Teams shoot way, way, way too many 3-pointers. I mean, I know it’s been getting worse and worse every year, but oh my goodness the number of horrible 3-pointers I saw in the first two rounds. Guys, it’s OK if you take a short jumper or try to drive! I promise, even in Trump’s America, it’s legal to take a 10-footer!
The other big trend seems to be these replay reviews taking longer, and longer, and longer. I swear to God the other night in the, I think it was Gonzaga-Ohio State game (I may be wrong they’re all blending together), there were a couple of five-minute delays while the officials watched 11 replays.
Hey guys, just make a call! I know it’s important to get it right, but I’ve had relationships that lasted less time than these reviews!
Just had to get that off my chest. Thank you. What a fantastic four days of game. Man, I do love this sport.
**And finally today, I promised you something non-NCAA Tournament related at the end. An organization called Now This put together the absolutely perfect explanation, in one short video, of why Fox News is so phony and fraudulent.
Watch as the exact same decision is reached by Presidents Obama and Trump, and how they react. Just genius.