This weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to attend one of the sessions of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. On Friday night, I joined fellow blogger Big Dunc for a night of college hoops, taking in the contest between Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech, and then Ohio State against UC Santa Barbara. While not conducive to a traditional narrative, I do have some thoughts on the whole affair.
* The tickets to this event are massive (shown above). Do not entertain thoughts of putting one of these in your pocket. I suppose, the larger and more important the event, the larger the ticket. If I ever happen to attend the Super Bowl, I fully expect to have to strap the ticket to the roof of my car.
* I can't say I was very impressed with any of the traveling fans. I heard Xavier traveled well during the opening session, getting louder than the much larger Minnesota contingent. OSU had the best color coordination. There was an OSU family of fans in the row in front of us who may have clapped once. As a neutral observer, I got more excited about an alley-oop than they did, even though their clothes were orange to the hilt.
* Georgia Tech had the smartest band. I know this because they played one of the Wisconsin Badger fight songs during a lull in the game. This fully won the crowd over to the Yellow Jackets' side at an important juncture in the second half.
* Speaking of lulls, holy Christ, are there a ton of stoppages in play! You don't notice this as much on TV (as there are usually upwards of seventeen other first round games taking place at once), but rarely does a minute go by without a timeout of some sort. I firmly believe you don't have to be that well-conditioned to play college basketball. If you have the talent, and you can run for up to ninety seconds at a stretch, you shouldn't have a problem. Additionally, this makes comebacks extremely tough to achieve in this tournament. If the other team doesn't kill your momentum, the official timer will.
* The NCAA commandeers any building its games are being played in. The only signage has the blue NCAA logo on it, and if you don't like looking at that, too bad. You, the captive fan, gets brainwashed into thinking this is the only thing happening at the moment. Think they would show another game during halftime? Nope, you and eight hundred other guys need to crowd around one of the concourse TVs in order to watch Michigan St. get the game handed to them by the referees. But wait, you also get to see Christian Laettner's turnaround buzzer-beater once on the JumboTron during each game. That should have placated you.
* The court would have looked cool, except it was exactly the same as all of the others in use. Why bother even playing these in different arenas?
* I realized I have nothing against any particular basketball team, but I do hate some of the coaches. Tom Izzo is just an ass, and I hate looking at Thad Matta's stupid proboscis monkey face. I would imagine that Bo Ryan is also a pretty easy guy to hate.
* What's up with Ohio State and players who look like they're in they're drawing Social Security checks? First, there was Greg Oden. Now, there's Dallas Lauderdale. Seriously, I could notice his male pattern baldness from row U in the upper deck. At least guys like Lauderdale won't have a problem making curfew, since he goes to bed around 8:30 each night like others in his age group.
* The NCAA has an unhealthy stranglehold over souvenirs. If there was a reasonably priced UCSB Gauchos T-shirt available for purchase, I would have bought it. My only choices, however, were a motley crew of uninspired, cookie-cutter NCAA Tournament tees that looked about as attractive as a wearable word document. I would never buy anything like this, since I am not a fan of a tournament, I am a fan of a team or their interesting artwork.
* Wheat Thins blew its entire promotional budget wad for this three-week arena run. All foodstuffs came in trays covered in their ads, and I also got a free sample bag of the Sundried Tomato and Basil variety. Not bad, but not good enough to not always be free.
* This event fulfilled my yearly quota for "Grand White Person Gathering." The only black people I saw the entire night were either Bradley Center staff of some sort, or were playing the game of basketball while wearing matching clothing. I don't want to get too far into this, but I thought it was odd, considering Milwaukee is a minority-majority city. Also, this phenomenon is not as prevalent at Bucks games. The BC will not be that white again until Nickelsuck, I mean Nickelback, plays there in May.
* If your team gets to the Big Dance, it doesn't mean everybody gets to go dancing. The UCSB band looked cool, dressed as Gauchos in ponchos. When I snuck down to the lower bowl in the second half, not too far behind the band, it was apparent the UCSB's band director worked out a deal that would put some Marquette band members (ones who didn't get to follow the team to their first round game) in the Gauchos' costume. Lots of Marquette University lettering was visible underneath those ponchos. I'd estimate at least half of the band was made up of Milwaukee fill-ins.
* Speaking of fans that made the trip from Santa Barbara, I found it comical that I came across several people decked out in UCSB gear huddling beneath a ledge, trying to stay out of the rain on the way to my car after the games. I felt bad that they had to endure a cold-ass rainstorm after their team got so thoroughly manhandled, but weather forecasts are available to all citizens, yes? Sure, it was like 60 degrees as recently as Thursday afternoon, in Milwaukee, all that means is that there might be snow on the ground Saturday morning. There was.
* I'll end with a controversial suggestion that I'm only half-kidding about. Alley-oops should be worth eight points. Before you scoff, hear me out. The play, as crowd-energizing as it is, only gets you two points. Let's make it a total game changer. This would be limited to the NCAA tournament only, and you only get one once per game, and only if you are trailing, and not within the final minute of the game. Let's make the team in the lead sweat it out a little with the possibility that a seven-point lead could quickly turn into a deficit. If you can defend against it, great, but if you commit a foul when one is attempted, it's an automatic four shots plus the ball, and the other team still has the attempt in their pocket. What do you say?
Oh, and now that my teams are out, I'll be happy to see any team take the title except for Michigan St. or Ohio St. And maybe not Duke, either.