Monday, March 24, 2008


Villanova's Scottie Reynolds is congratulated by teammate Dante Cunningham after scoring against Siena during the first half of their second round game Tampa, Florida 3-23-08 (REUTERS/Scott Audette/US)NCAA tourney opening weekend is always my favorite. Now that the first 4 days of the 2008 version are behind us, I have to say it was quite an enjoyable ride. It certainly doesn't hurt that Villanova are in the Sweet Sixteen with wins over Clemson and Siena. Actually, it helps a lot.

It didn't start off well: Thursday was one of the most lackluster and ugly first days of the NCAA which included two records that schools would rather not have: Cornell getting its Ivy ass kicked due to an awful 15.6% first half field goal percentage, and Miss. (I ain't typing all those S's) Valley State's atrocious 29 points, both shot-clock era low points. The biggest disappointment was Duke not getting upset by Belmont, which I (sort of) predicted. However, things really picked up on Friday. In Tampa, all four lower seeded teams won (Villanova, Siena, Western Kentucky, San Diego), the first time in the tourney it's ever happened . . . and they were all seeded #12 or higher. At the top of my list is, of course, Villanova's upset of Clemson.

As for the rest of the weekend, you can read all about the various upsets and bullshit, but the only thing that matters to be is NCAA FRIDAY. In what has become an annual tradition, Rob & I took the day off and spent the day in White Plains. So let's give out the NCAA (Good) Friday awards:
MVP: The Brazen Fox. We intended to just use Rory Dolan's new bar in White Plains as a meeting point, but we ended up spending most of the afternoon there. With a stellar beer selection (Chimay Blue, Orval, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA/Raison D'etre, Piraat, Leffe Blonde, Samuel Smith's Organic Ale/Oatmeal Stout, Anchor Porter, Franziskaner), plentiful HD flat screens (albeit no DirecTV) and WiFi, it was hard to tear ourselves from their bar stools. The bartender was slow, otherwise we would have cleaned them out. As a result of our top loaded night, we never made it to the Sports Page.

Most Enjoyable Upset: San Diego's first-round OT ouster of UConn, a first for Calhoun's Huskies. Judging by the one man cheering at the game's conclusion, Rob was the only one to pick the Toreros on his bracket.

Rookie of the Year:
Elements. Brian (formerly the manager of James Joyce) has opened a jewel of a restaurant on Mamaroneck, with a modern design that nicely breaks up the Irish pub monotony on the block: a long, sleek bar with nice mosaic tiling, dark wood on the walls, light wood on the ceiling. Add to the list a rooftop deck for 96 patrons (a first for the city which will be opening soon, though I got a sneak peak), and he has hit a homerun with this place. He actually remembers us from the other side of the street (even after he was AWOL for a year), and it's that personal touch that's going to keep me coming back. That and the rooftop deck on which I will be practically living this summer. Did I mention the rooftop deck?

Me. After a solid 8 hours of drinking, I predictably hit the wall and decided that I simply couldn't drink another drop. When I got home safely and saw the 'Cats down 39-23 to the Tigers in the first half, and realized that CBS was gleefully cutting away from it for other games, I chose sleep (and good memories of the day) instead. (Plus, I had to drive to my sister's house in NH at 4:30 the next morning to go skiing, so I had an excuse). Of course, as soon as I got in bed they stormed back from an 18 point deficit to win by 6. I blame CBS for this, as they scheduled Villanova's game for 9:40 PM (actual tip-off was 9:57 PM) for the second straight year. I know it's a Friday, but why screw two East Coast schools like that? Don't they know I've been drinking since noon? I'm only one man!

Once again NCAA Friday was a roaring success, and beat the shit out of working. As for the rest of the weekend, here's my opinions.

Least Impressive Conference: PAC-10. Not only did 3 of 6 lose in the first round (Oregon, USC, Arizona St.) but the supposed world beaters UCLA looked soft (squeaking by Texas A&M by 2), and Stanford looked beatable (managing to beat Marquette in OT). Washington St. turned out to look the strongest, which is totally bizarre and doesn't bode well for them. The PAC is wack!

Interesting Development:
Big East ended up being better than ACC. I've been saying the Big East was weak this year, but I had no idea that the ACC was even weaker (UNC is the only legit contender still around, and they don't play defense). Head-to-head, Big East teams beat ACC teams in key spots, namely 'Nova (8th in BE) over Clemson (3rd in ACC), and WVU (HUGGIE BEAR!) over Duke on Saturday.

Most Satisfying Upset:
On the flipside, Georgetown's loss to Davidson (for the record, my brother-in-law coined the phrase "Davidson beats Goliath" before CBS did). I've been saying for months (to anyone who whould listen) that Georgetown is overrated. WHY DIDN'T YOU LISTEN? (I also said Villanova shouldn't be in it, and here they are.) And once again, how many John Thompsons and Patrick Ewings to you expect us to endure?

My thoughts about Dickie V. Okay, I know he's turned into an unbearable buffoon, but I blame that on ESPN more than anything else. I still think Vitale's enthusiasm for the game is second to none, and his knowledge of it excellent, however ESPN encourages him to be an annoying caricature of himself. Instead of giving him a forum to be a top analyst, they only allow him to spew nonsensical catchphrases for a few minutes a day; instead of showcasing his knowledge, they ridicule him on highlight shows by showing pictures of him wearing a Cinderella dress. This is just more proof that ESPN is now completely focused on entertainment and not sports, and it's a shame. I would love it if he told them to fuck themselves (preferably live, on the air) and got a job with CBS or FOX or someone else.

Bracket Buster Bluth:
That would have been the name of my entry, had I officially done one. Overall, my fake-bracket is surprisingly okay, with 11/16 and all Final Four teams still around (Tennessee, Wisconsin, UCLA, Memphis).

The Madness will continue in earnest on Thursday night, and I'm happy to have someone still in it to root for (but for how long, FOR HOW LONG?). As for Friday night's Villanova/Kansas matchup, I believe this 'Cats team will scratch away until the bitter end, so let's just hope that the Jayhawks once again decide to crap out early. All I can say for sure is that there will be a lot of drinking.

No comments: