Covering the first day of the NCAA Tournament as it happens…
* March Madness makes you do silly things. I actually spent a decent amount of time last night making a food schedule for, as I described it to my fiancee, one of the few “guy days” of the year. With the games tipping off around 9:30 a.m. West Coast time — too early to go with pizza or Subway — I figured I’d get some of the addictive breakfast sandwiches at the deli next to my building to start, then subs around lunchtime. I actually did all this BEFORE filling out my bracket.
* …And I make it back from the deli just in time for the LSU/Butler tip. Before my Crack Muffin is even open, LSU is out to a 9-0 lead.
* Crap … I guess because I’m on the West Coast, I get to watch BYU/Texas A&M in the West regional. I was hoping for Memphis/Cal State-Northridge. The scoreboard tells me CS-Northridge (closer to my spot in Seattle than Utah or Texas) is up early. I don’t want to watch this game..
* Oh well. After BYU hits a three to open it, A&M goes on an 11-0 run.
* Bryan Davis is putting in work early for A&M, getting buckets in the paint. Whatever happened to Joseph Jones, who played PF for the Aggies back when they had Acie Law? He was nice — one of those guys you knew wouldn’t make much impact in the NBA, but still decent — but I never heard from him after he graduated.
* I was watching Utah State’s conference championship game last week when one of the announcers pointed out that Utah State has more grown-ass men on their team than most college squads due to the whole 2-year Mormon mission thing. I assume BYU is the same way. And yet, these grown-ass men never get that far in the tourney.
* Seven minutes into the game, and BYU just grabbed their first rebound. How’s that grown-man thing going?
* It’s 26-8, Texas A&M. BYU has a guard whose first name is “Jimmer,” which sounds (and he looks) like somebody out of a Matt Christopher book. If his last name was “Thompson” instead of “Fredette,” he’d pull the whole thing off.
* After the commercial break, they take us to the Memphis game. Here we go. The Tigers are only up one at the 10:30 mark, and are playing sloppy. “Yet another lazy mishap,” one of the announcers says as Memphis throws the ball out of bounds on a simple kick-out.
* Memphis’ Roburt Sallie knocks down his fourth three; he’s 4-4 from deep and has 12 of their 23 points. I’m guessing Tyreke Evans had a rough start, because he’s not even in the game right now.
* Sallie hits a two-pointer, but Memphis turns it over again and CSN’s Kenny Daniels finishes on the other end with the tongue-out dunk. I guarantee that slow-mo replay of Daniels’ face will make the “One Shining Moment” final cut.
* Did the announcers just give Sallie the nickname “Long Tall Sallie,” or did he have that already? Either way, that’s horrible. By the way, he just hit ANOTHER three. He’s got 17 points already and is reminding me of Jack McClinton with the arm sleeve and the effortless stroke. Scoreboard check: LSU is up 27-18 on Butler, Texas A&M is up 32-21 on BYU.
* Pierre Niles is in for Memphis. Before the season the story with him was that he weighed like 350 and had to get down to 280 before Coach Cal would let him play. He’s looking relatively svelte right now, like a young Refrigerator Perry.
* Forget TIger Woods dribbling a golf ball on his driver; that kid in the NCAA commercial who’s playing the violin while dribbling a soccer ball on one foot is a BEAST.
* I’m not saying any names, but somebody who regularly writes for Dime was all over the Willie Kemp hype train when he signed with Memphis out of high school. Three years later, I’m still not seeing it. Tigers up 33-29. They’re slowly getting into a rhythm, but CS-Northridge is in a rhythm, too.
* Tyreke is back in after an 11-minute timeout due to foul trouble. He immediately bricks a three.
* The non-Roburt Sallie portion of the Memphis roster is 5-for-20 from the field. Their lead is down to two. Northridge’s coach looks like Rosey Grier.
* At the half, Memphis leads 34-31. I hope Calipari drank his hot lemon tea before the game, because he’s about to give his vocal cords a workout in the locker room. Robert Dozier, the senior leader who is 0-for-5 with one rebound, should get an earful. A&M is up 42-30 on BYU at the half, and LSU is up 35-29 on Butler at halftime.
* Breaking news: Jim Calhoun had to be taken to the hospital and will not coach UConn in their opener against Chattanooga. I missed exactly what the medical issue is, but it’s the second time this year Calhoun’s had to miss a game for health reasons.
* My fiancee just now: “Are these all college teams?”
* Back to the Memphis game. Color commentator Mike Gminski says CS-Northridge’s zone is working almost to perfection, except Roburt Sallie is busting it open whenever he gets the ball. Right off the bat in the second half, Memphis is pressing full-court and creates an easy bucket off a turnover.
* A minute and a half into the half, CBS is already showing the “15-over-2 Upsets” graphic. Settle down; Northridge isn’t even winning yet.
* Tyreke just got dropped on a crossover/step-back move by … I think it was Rob Hayes. He misses the jumper, though.
* Northridge ties it up with a three, but Sallie comes right back and nails a three. He’s got 20 points, but the crowd is 100% behind Northridge. If Memphis survives this game, they’ve got to defend the paint better.
* Northridge takes the lead on another three; it’s 44-43 at the 14-minute mark. Calipari quickly gets a timeout.
* Out of the timeout, Northridge is defending the three better; Doneal Mack throws up a brick that might have hit all backboard. Hayes gets it downcourt to Willie Galick for a layup to put them up by three, and Cal gets another timeout. Tyreke scores out of that timeout, the first time he’s been able to really get to the rim all day.
* Now we’re just trading buckets. Memphis regains the lead, then Northridge gets a three to put them back up, then Sallie drains another triple, then Northridge hits another three. This all happened in like 20 seconds. Then Tyreke gets a layup plus-one to tie it up, and we go to commercial before the free throw. If this ends up being the best game of the day, I wouldn’t be mad.
* Memphis goes up after Tyreke’s free throw, but Galick hits a pair from the line and Rodrique Mels hits the kind of fallaway three coming off a curl that you only take when you’re hot. Steal in the backcourt and a layup, and now it’s 62-56 Northridge and Coach Cal is burning timeouts like crazy.
* Here’s a problem for Memphis: They have Tyreke’s all-around ability, Sallie’s threes, and NOTHING ELSE. Their vaunted defense is getting picked apart. Dozier and Shawn Taggart have been completely taken out of the picture. Meanwhile, Northridge is getting buckets from everyone. Mark Hill just put on a spin on Sallie and hit a reverse layup that he brought from his ankles.
* Scoreboard check: LSU is up 63-51 on Butler with 3:50 left, and Texas A&M is up 70-55 on BYU with six minutes left.
* Antonio Anderson scores to give Memphis the lead back, then Dozier tips in a shot. NOW we’re getting the other guys involved. Memphis goes on a 9-0 run before Northridge gets another bucket to cut the lead to four.
* One of the bench players on Northridge is completely deaf, and some of his teammates have learned sign language for him. Man, I WANT to pull for Memphis, but CBS is making it hard to do so.
* Sallie knocks down a three; he’s got 32 points and Memphis leads by seven with 1:40 to play. Another Sallie triples makes it double digits, and I think the upset bid is over. CBS switches over to LSU/Butler, where the Tigers lead by four with 27 seconds left.
* Coach Rosey Grier gets the deaf kid in the game for the last 11 seconds. Anyone who only sees the 81-70 score will think Memphis cruised, but that game was up in the air well into the second half. Meanwhile, LSU completes the win, and Texas A&M takes out BYU. Pretty sure I’m 3-0 so far in my bracket.