Thursday, March 15, 2007
Updated: March 17, 12:49 PM ET
Running with the Madness, Part I
By Bill Simmons
We're going all out for this year's real-time running diary of the first round of March Madness. Two of my college buddies (JackO and House) flew to L.A. to watch the games with me and double as my peanut gallery. We have a legitimate man cave (a converted garage behind my house) with leather sofas, a 42-inch Sony and a fridge filled with Smithwick's, Guinness, Miller Lite, Pilsner Urquell and Foster's. We have potato chips, pretzels, peanuts and even wasabi peas. We have DirecTV's March Madness package in HD. We have an extra laptop so House can search things on Google. We have Borat's brother Bilo in a cage to the right of the TV.
The only thing we don't have? A waitress dressed up in a French maid's costume. Although we're working on that for tomorrow. And now, without further ado
LAST UPDATED: 9:04 p.m. PT (yes, Pacific ... deal with it)
Afternoon session: Hour 1 (9:11-10:10 PT) | Hour 2 (10:14-11:26) | Hour 3 (11:36-12:39) | Hour 4 (12:45-1:58)
Evening session: Hour 1 (4:00-5:06 PT) | Hour 2 (5:15-6:15) | Hour 3 (6:25-7:26) | Hour 4 (7:30-8:39)
9:11 a.m. (PT): CBS kicks off its coverage with Greg Gumbel, Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis. Kellogg likes the higher seeds to prevail. Glad he's here. Meanwhile, Davis loves oral. Whoops, Oral Roberts. Sorry about that. That's his upset special.
9:15: Does anyone else have trouble watching Sam Waterston shill for Ameritrade without remembering how he left Dith Pran behind in Cambodia?
9:18: This seems like a good time to mention the games House and I would have wagered on today if gambling were legal. Sadly, it's not. But just for fun, these would have been our Round 1 picks: A Maryland-Louisville money line parlay, Boston College (-2), Michigan State (-2), Gonzaga (+1.5), Villanova (-1.5), Virginia Tech (-2.5).
9:20: Today's early games: Davidson-Maryland, BC-Texas Tech and Stanford-Louisville. We're watching the Maryland game because (A) House is a Terps fan, and (B) Davidson has a starting guard named Max Paulhus Gosselin (sounds like the star from the Dutch version of "Saved By The Bell").
9:23: Color guy Bob Wenzel mentions Stephen Curry (son of Dell) and D.J. Strawberry (son of Darryl) and tells us, "We have a genetic game here." Too bad Pavel Podkolzin couldn't make it.
9:24: JackO: "Wouldn't it be excellent if Darryl Strawberry wandered onto the court during this Maryland game like Dennis Hopper in Hoosiers?"
9:27: Davidson gets two straight offensive rebounds, followed by Wenzel praising the team's "fortitude." Settle down, Bob.
9:28: CBS goes to the break with a song from Fall Out Boy. Welcome to the 21st century, CBS!
9:32: We just spent the past four minutes looking for the HD channel for the Maryland game. It doesn't exist! Unbelievable! CBS couldn't afford HD cameras for every NCAA region?
9:33: House and JackO break out the first bottles of Smithwick's. It's 9:33 in the morning. You have to love March Madness on the West Coast.
9:35: House thinks Dell Curry's son looks like the kid from "Land of the Lost." I don't think anyone under 35 is getting that joke. Whatever. We all laughed.
9:36: We convince House to switch to the Louisville game for four reasons: Gus Johnson, the comedy of the Lopez twins, HD, and Rick Pitino in HD.
9:38: Louisville jumps out to an 8-2 lead thanks to its full-court press. I said it before, I'll say it again: the Pac-10 sucks. "We shoulda bet more on this one," House says. "You know, if gambling was legal."
9:42: Louisville 17, Stanford 6
and Stanford has turned the ball over at least 45 times in six minutes. "They shouldn't have recruited Bilo Sagdiyev as their point guard," House jokes. By the way, the over/under for Bilo jokes over the next two days is 75½. I'd take the over.
9:44: Switch to the BC game -- BC's up by six already. "I took Texas Tech in this game because I hate BC," JackO says. "And you know what? I have no regrets. I hate BC." Well, then.
9:47: Our breakout star of the early games: Stephen Curry (nine points already). Very fun to watch.
9:49: For the first time today, CBS has commercials going on all three games at the same time. That leads to this exchange:
Me: We gotta come up with a name for that phenomenon
it's like a whitewash, but with commercials.
House: Whatever the name is of the town rapist in 'Borat' -- that's what we should call it."
That leads to House googling the guy's name
it's Urkin. So that's what we'll call it. An Urkin.
9:53: Gus tells us that Louisville's Derek Caracter missed 16 games this year due to "off-court issues." Sounds like some Caracter problems. Thank you, thank you very much. I'll be here all week.
9:54: CBS is showing these "learn about the schools" graphics -- for Stanford, the famous alum was Sandra Day O'Connor. For Louisville, it was Wes Unseld and Johnny Unitas. "I hope it's Jeffrey Dahmer for Marquette," JackO says.
9:56: Louisville's up 25-10. We just had a draft to figure out what Caracter's off-court issues were. I picked domestic violence, JackO picked marijuana possession, House picked sexual misconduct. Five bucks apiece. You have to love March Madness.
9:58: And the answer? We still can't figure it out. There's no info online other than Caracter accepted "benefits" from a family friend. Whatever that means. The important thing is that House's two Google searches so far today have been "Borat town rapist" and "Louisville Caracter issues." But seriously
you have love March Madness.
10:03: BC's up 37-36
but Jared Dudley just picked up his third foul because Al Skinner left him in. Really? Al Skinner's going to kill them in Round 1? I was hoping he'd at least wait until Round 2. By the way, Dick Enberg's announcing this game with Jay Bilas
Vegas just set the over/under of screwed-up names by Dick at 48½.
10:05: Louisville 34, Stanford 12. Great work by Clark Kellogg (he picked Stanford) and the tournament committee (blame them if there's rioting on the Kansas State and Syracuse campuses tonight).
10:10: Our halftime scores: BC 41, Texas Tech 39; Maryland 44, Davidson 43; Louisville 97, Stanford 23. Back in an hour.
10:14: CBS just threw a three-minute Urkin at us. That's gonna be tough to beat today. Hey, you know the old saying that the camera adds 10 pounds? Apparently Greg Gumbel is being filmed by 20 cameras right now.
10:15: With two games at halftime, Gumbel throws the country to "Louisville 45, Stanford 17." This game is such a blowout, even Gus Johnson seems subdued.
10:17: "They should call an official timeout and substitute Syracuse for Stanford," House jokes.
10:22: Hey, where does Brook Lopez's twin brother rank among the most overmatched athlete twins in recent sports history? Ahead or behind Ozzie Canseco? He just threw the ball on the backboard on consecutive possessions while House repeatedly called him "Bilo Lopez" and JackO said in the Borat voice, "He no get this
he no get this
10:23: Greg somehow makes it through all three halftime shows without saying to Clark Kellogg, "Clark, how 'bout that Stanford pick?" They can't just deny that it happened! Their lead studio guy picked Stanford and they're on pace to lose by 52 points! This happened! We saw it!
10:25: Another two-minute Urkin from CBS. On the bright side, the Papa John's commercial and a close-up of a sausage pizza just prompted the first of 230 "When are we eating?" questions from House.
10:28: Not nearly enough Bob Knight shots in this BC game. Are they allowed to show him in HD? Is there a federal rule we don't know about? Whoops -- they just showed him. He may or may not be alive. Hard to say.
10:30: For the second round of beers, House stays with Smithwick's but JackO switches to Miller Lite because "it's a marathon, not a sprint." Probably a good move. I see JackO playing the Louisville to House's Stanford as the day progresses.
10:31: Really good Texas Tech-BC game -- Tech's up 52-51 with 15 minutes left and getting some quality play from Alan Voskuil, who's the leader of the voting for "whitest player with the whitest name" so far today.
10:34: We're all confused. CBS is in halftime of the Louisville game and showing the Maryland game on that channel in HD
but when the Louisville game comes back, we'll lose the HD picture even though it's now been established that HD cameras are there. You figure it out.
10:36: Davidson's up by four early in the second half and Stephen Curry already has 23 points. Now we're all mad at House because he guaranteed a Maryland win. He's a bigger homer than Tommy Heinsohn. Never take tips from your friends when (A) they root for one of the teams in the game, and (B) one of Darryl Strawberry's sons plays for that same team. That's even worse than getting a tip from Clark Kellogg.
10:39: JackO makes the first Bob Knight/Bernie Lomax joke of the day. BC leads by three, 10 minutes to go.
10:41: Davidson's up by eight and Stephen Curry is taking crazy Pistol Pete jumpers. He doesn't even remotely have a conscience. Meanwhile, CBS just went to commercial playing Jay-Z. Apparently they finally hired a game producer under the age of 55.
10:44: Best uniforms of the early games: Tech's blood-red unis that look like a cooler version of Indiana's unis. "That's so Bobby Knight can still think he's coaching Indiana," JackO says.
10:45: BC up six, Maryland down two
and my local CBS changed us from Stanford-Louisville to Maryland-Davidson, which means we're getting that game in HD now. We shouldn't be excited because we're getting the best games in HD for March Madness. No, really.
10:49: The good news: Maryland's Bambale Osby decided to dress like Coolidge from the "White Shadow" for today's game. The bad news: CBS decided to stop showing everyone's major as they're shooting free throws. Come on! That was my favorite running subplot! How could they do that?
10:54: Prolonged shot of Knight standing and talking to his players while Dick Enberg rambled about Knight's love for fishing. All that sequence was missing was a "Matlock" promo.
10:55: The first "This is our country" ad of the day leads to us screaming "Get it off! Get it off" while JackO (on remote duty) frantically tries to turn the channel. Nice ad campaign, Chevy. You nearly just caused a riot.
10:58: Best exchange of the day
Wenzel (after a controversial travelling call in the Maryland game): "Instantaneous decisions are a lot harder than ones you can see on replay."
and that's why I've been married three times."
and that's why I drive a PT Cruiser."
and that's why I woke up this morning next to a 240-pound woman."
(Note: This went on for the next three minutes.)
11:01: Score check: BC by six, Maryland by three, Louisville by 75. Dammit
why did Gus Johnson have to do the blowout?
11:07: Tech cuts BC's lead to five with 1:41 remaining. Meanwhile, JackO is rambling about the fact that we were watching "SportsCenter" last night and they showed scores from the Women's NIT: "The Women's NIT? Did we really need a Women's NIT? Would you even hang that banner up in your school's gym if you won the title?"
11:11: JackO as Texas Tech is about to get eliminated: "Look at Bob Knight! Is he well? He's not even moving!" It's probably not a good sign for a college when casual observers are worried about the health of their basketball coach.
11:12: Maryland's leading by three, four minutes left
and we're openly calling Stephen Curry "Chaka." He's got 28.
11:14: Good God
it's a sports movie about an all-black swim team starring Bernie Mac and Terrence Howard that includes a villainous all-white swim team coached by Tom Arnold. I think we've officially run out of ideas for sports movies.
11:17: Final score: BC 84, Texas Tech 75. I might actually get all three early games correct in my bracket for the first time ever. So wait
you're telling me that it helps my bracket to watch college basketball during the regular season? Are we sure?
11:18: Wenzel praises Curry's "guts." I'm just about Bob Wenzel'ed out and we have three games to go. Maryland 75, Davidson 68
90 seconds to play. Meanwhile, the NCAA just ended the Louisville game prematurely because of the slaughter rule.
11:26: Maryland wins by 12 AND covers. Um, not that gambling is legal or anything. Back in an hour.
11:36: Just took a 10-minute break to order lunch from The Oinkster, quite possibly the best lunch place in the L.A. area. And you know who's picking it up for us? My lovely wife. She's the best. I do not deserve her.
(Note: My lawyers did not encourage me to include the last two sentences.)
11:38: The second batch of games: Oral Roberts-WSU, Butler-Old Dominion, Georgetown-Belmont and Texas A&M-Penn. One of these should be an upset, right? I kinda wish I didn't pick WSU now.
11:39: Actual quote from James Brown, who's announcing the Oral-WSU game: "Coming in
and he replaces
Yemi Ogunoye." That was fun.
11:40: Most disappointing decision of the day: CBS abbreviating Oral Roberts' name to "O-Rob" for the tiny scoreboard on the bottom of the screen. Come on. For comedy's sake, shouldn't that have been "Oral"?
11:41: Actual postgame question from Dan Bonner to Rick Pitino after a game in which Louisville had a 26-point lead by halftime: "Rick, first of all, congratulations, it appeared to me your team played awfully well, particularly in the first half. What's your assessment?" Can we take Dan's microphone away?
11:47: Sorry, we just spent the last six minutes watching the live feed of the Stanford-Louisville regional -- which inexplicably kept going between games -- just in case Gus Johnson didn't realize it was live and swore on air or something. Nothing happened. Very disappointing.
11:51: An upset brewing! It's Belmont 2, Georgetown 0! Hey, since when did they start allowing prep schools in the NCAA Tournament?
11:53: Enberg and Bilas tell us that Georgetown center Roy Hibbert was nicknamed "Bambi" in high school and that, until recently, John Thompson II called him "The Big Stiff." Is it too late to change my pick of G-Town making the NCAA Finals?
11:55: Belmont Prep 9, Georgetown 4! We're officially on Upset Watch. I don't care if this would completely destroy my bracket, I'm rooting for this one.
11:57: One of our friends just read the first two installments of the diary and wondered what was up with all the "Borat" jokes. Well, we watched the DVD twice yesterday -- once in the afternoon, once late at night. I can't remember the last comedy that I would have watched twice in one day. Has there been a better comedy since "Midnight Run"? I say no.
11:58: Belmont Prep trots out an official whitewash. "We could be telling our great-grandkids about this game," JackO predicts. This seems like a good time to mention that the Belmont coach is wearing a light-blue sleeveless sweater-vest with black pants.
12:00 (p.m. PDT): Just argued whether Dick Enberg actually thinks Patrick Ewing the dad is playing in this Georgetown-Belmont game. I say yes, House and JackO say no. It's almost more fun NOT knowing.
12:04: Some fantastic coaches in this sequence of games -- not only is the Belmont coach dressed like Bing Crosby, but John Thompson III is dressed like a funeral director, the Butler coach is dressed like it's Casual Friday and Old Dominion's coach looks like he should be working behind the counter at a porn shop.
12:10: While we're watching the Butler game, House demands, "Give us Oral!" He's talking about the Oral Roberts-WSU game. By the way, we're almost positive that James Brown and Lenny Elmore met for the first time right before this game.
12:13: Well, Georgetown just leapfrogged Belmont (15-11), but Oral Roberts has opened a six-point lead over WSU. "I picked Oral Roberts because Jay Bilas told me to," JackO says. He's completely serious.
12:16: Our halftime score: Oral Roberts 28, WSU 26. Also, Oral Roberts' name has led to nearly 200 jokes that can't be printed on a Disney-owned Web site.
12:18: Here's a barn burner: Midway through the first half, Old Dominion and Butler are tied at nine. I think we need to get Kevin Harlan some coffee.
12:21: Maybe it's a good thing the Butler game isn't on HDTV: Butler star A.J. Graves has a legitimate uni-brow going. I think he bought that thing on eBay from Adam Carolla.
12:23: Just had the following exchange ...
Bob Wenzel (talking about Graves): "He is an easy player to like
he doesn't look like a great player, he's not impressive in the airport, but he's impressive when the game starts."
JackO (after a beat): "Is he drunk?"
12:25: Seriously, Butler and Old Dominion might not break 75 points combined. This is excruciating. House just demanded that we switch to the Kansas State-Syracuse game.
12:29: We're tied at 15 and Kevin Harlan just told us to stick around at halftime for "live look-ins" with Greg, Clark and Seth. It's like we're Peeping Toms at a bathhouse.
12:32: Midway through the first half it's Texas A&M 11, Penn 5. We're trying to figure out if the SAT average on Penn's team doubles A&M's team. These are the graphics they need to be showing us: SAT averages and majors.
12:33: We thought Penn had a whitewash going there for a second but No. 2 (Ibrahim Jaaber) ruined it. "That's too bad," House says. Meanwhile, Gus Johnson seems like he's ready to explode -- he's treating every Penn basket like it's Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
12:36: Acie Law IV scores five straight (16-9 A&M), leading to this exchange:
Gus: "Acie Law, senior from Dallas, Texas, he can use either hand."
House: "So can I."
12:38: Google update through three hours: "Borat town rapist"
"Caracter Louisville issues"
"Greg Gumbel buffet table"
"Oral Roberts name origin."
12:39: WSU jumps out to a 35-28 lead in the second half. Jeez, will we see an upset today? Back in an hour.
12:45: Weirdest moment of the day: CBS changing Oral Roberts' scoreboard abbreviation from "O-Rob" to "ORU." Do you think they got an angry phone call from Oral Roberts? Bizarre. I'm calling them O-Rob for the rest of the day just out of spite. I don't care if it makes me sound like Linda Cohn.
(House's explanation: "I don't care
I'm so close to Oinkster, I can taste it.")
12:48: Our favorite "O-Rob fact of the day," courtesy of some Googling we just did: "In 1987, during a fund-raising drive, Roberts announced to a television audience that unless he raised $8 million by that March, God would 'call him home' (a euphemism for death). He raised $9.1 million." I might have to try this tactic on ESPN.com.
12:50: After O-Rob star Ken Tutt drains a 3 to cut WSU's lead to nine, JackO wonders, "His nickname HAS to be King, right? There's no question, right?" I sure hope so.
12:51: Score update with comments from JackO and House: Old Dominion 20, Butler 19, halftime ("Is this the women's NIT?")
Georgetown 38, Belmont Prep 25, halftime ("A professional team handling their bidness in a professional manner.")
Texas A&M 26, Penn 16, late first half ("That's all right, that's OK, they're gonna work for Penn some day.")
WSU 49, O-Rob 39, midway second half ("Looks like Oral lost some steam.")
JackO 4 beers, House 4 beers ("We need food, and soon.").
12:55: Maybe Penn's losing by 13 heading into halftime, but they have a player named Ibby Jaaber -- every time Gus says his name, he sounds slightly like Mr. T. Now we're rooting for Ibby Jaaber to score 40 points in the second half so Gus will scream, "Don't gimme no Ibby Jaaber!"
1:00: House and I try to convince JackO that WSU coach Tony Bennett is actually Jean-Claude Van Damme. Three more beers and we would have pulled it off.
1:02: The Georgetown-Belmont game is stopped for two minutes while CBS changes Dick Enberg's blood.
1:04: WSU 58, O-Rob 47, 5:49 to go. For some reason, the audio has been screwed up all game and James Brown sounds like he's calling it from a cell phone. Hey, maybe he is.
1:08: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Three double-digit leads and a fourth game (ODU-Butler) that isn't even on HD thanks to our buddies at CBS and DirecTV. Will a good NCAA game ever happen at the same time that I'm writing a running diary? I don't think it's ever happened before.
1:11: WSU's Ivory Clark has five blocks. That's the coolest name of the day other than Ken Tutt.
1:14: Just had the following exchange after they showed O-Rob's coach with his head in his hands and his team trailing by 14:
House: "Where's 900-foot Jesus when you need him?"
JackO (laughing): "He can't type that."
House: "Why not? It's on the Internet! Oral Roberts had a vision of a 900-foot Jesus in 1980!"
(Did you ever wonder what life was like before the Internet?)
1:18: The Oinkster order arrives! We're about to watch House put down a cured pastrami sandwich, a pulled pork sandwich, a large order of fries AND a vanilla milk shake. CBS should be showing this instead of one of these crummy games. Of course, they wouldn't show it in HD.
1:23: WSU 70, O-Rob 54. That's a final. I'd tell you more but I'm eating. Don't worry, you're not missing anything. Other than some crappy basketball.
1:26: The dead silence of guys happily eating unhealthy food. One of the noises I miss most from college.
1:28: I don't know whether JackO ate that pastrami sandwich or made out with it. Still dead-silent in here.
1:30: House ends the silence by polishing off the pastrami sandwich, picking up the pulled pork sandwich and saying, "Porrrrrrk
hi, pork." Meanwhile, Butler nails a 3 (41-32) as Kevin Harlan yells, "Right between the eyes!" He was dying to break that one out.
1:33: Finally, a good game! Penn cuts the lead to one as CBS is forced to use a stun gun on Gus Johnson.
1:35: Penn takes the lead after a 21-6 run! Lemme tell you something
if Penn pulls this off, Gus is going to sound like the kid who opened the Nintendo 64 Christmas gift in that famous YouTube clip.
1:44: A&M fights back -- they're up four again. Meanwhile, Gus just told us a story about how Marlon Pompey (A&M's forward) and his mother moved to Canada but had to leave his brother behind because the brother had a mental illness and Canada wouldn't allow him inside its borders
and then, he casually moved back to the game action with no further explanation. I smell another Google moment coming on.
1:46: The highlight of the day, and I swear this happened: Gus just threw it to commercial (A&M up by eight) with a replay of Law driving to the basket by saying, "Aggies always in good shape
when they have the Law on their side. Ha-ha-ha-ha!" That cackle could best be described as "maniacal." I love Gus Johnson.
1:50: Just realized that, if Butler (up nine, two minutes to play) finishes off Old Dominion and A&M holds on, I'll be 7-for-7 on my bracket for the first time since 1945.
1:54: On tonight's CBS Evening News with Katie Couric: New studies show that exercise could reduce your chances of getting a disease. Wait, so exercise is GOOD for you? We had no idea!
1:58: The Aggies extend their lead to 10 with four minutes to play while Gus fights back tears. Game over. We're halfway through the day and haven't had an upset yet. Also, I think House just lapsed into a food coma. Bad times.
Programming note: Since there's only one new game coming up (GW-Vanderbilt), we're taking an extended break and coming back at 5 p.m. PDT (8 p.m. on the East Coast). See you then.
EVENING SESSION: HOUR 1
4:00: Annnnnnnnd we're back! We just made a caffeine run to wake up after an improbably bad batch of morning/afternoon games. The one game that happened while we were away: Vanderbilt 77, George Washington 44 (the first blemish on my bracket). Yet another barn burner. We had eight favorites win the first eight games by an average of 18 points per win. Good times!
4:04: Kellogg predicts a "more competitive" batch of games tonight. Glad he's here. By the way, we're now going on six hours without anyone bringing up the fact that Kellogg picked Stanford to beat Louisville.
4:09: We're all excited that Fidelity is using Der Kommissar for its new commercials. "It's on my iPod," our friend Nick tells us happily. He just showed up.
4:11: The VCU-Duke game has tons of potential: not only does VCU seem quicker, but House just described its coach's suit as "stylish
he looks smooth." I think P Diddy dressed him tonight. Very nice work.
4:17: More bad news for Gus Johnson: It's already Ohio State 14, Central Conn. State 3. Meanwhile, JackO (a West Hartford native) reports that Richard Grieco went to Central Conn. State. Now we're wondering if Grieco will get the "famous alum" tab on its team info graphic. Let's hope so.
4:18: Covered in barbecue sauce, Greg Gumbel throws us from Duke-VCU to UCLA-Weber State. We've now lost Duke-VCU on HD. Fantastic.
4:21: Good news for anyone who picked MSU: Marquette star Jerel McNeal will miss today's game with an injured thumb. They just showed him on the bench with a wrapped hand. You can hear the screams coming from Vegas.
4:23: Dick Enberg reminds us that Marquette recently changed its name from the Warriors to the Golden Eagles. I forgot about that. That was one of the 50 lamest sports moments ever.
4:28: House drops his Google duties and openly checks his work e-mails on the second laptop. We're all bored stiff. March Madness, baby! Feel the excitement!
4:32: The good news: Duke just toyed with a whitewash. They were one dorky white guy away. The bad news: They're leading VCU by 10 and my big upset pick is on life support.
4:35: MSU 8, Marquette 0
and we're seven minutes into the first half. "Has anyone ever been shut out in the NCAAs before?" JackO wonders. Hmmmm
are we counting the Women's NIT?
4:38: Our first shot of Steve Mariucci in the stands during the MSU game, followed by Enberg telling us the obligatory story that Mariucci's best friend from childhood was Tom Izzo, as legally mandated by the NCAA and CBS.
4:39: Drew Neitzel drains a 3 to put MSU up 11-0 with 11:34 remaining. Timeout, Marquette! They need to changed their name again to the Marquette We're Taking A Dump On National TVs.
4:41: We're so bored. It's unbelievable. We just tried to figure out how to spell out CBS's "going to commercial" music. I think it would look like this: "Da-da-da dahhhh daaaaaa da-da
4:43: MSU 14, Marquette 0, 10:30 left. This is officially riveting -- noooooooooo! Marquette just drained a 3. Oh, well.
4:47: Well, VCU's pressure is finally wearing down Duke -- they've cut it to 28-23 and Greg Paulus is heaving like Rick Majerus during a pilates class right now.
4:50: Quick check of the OSU game to make sure Gus Johnson hasn't killed himself yet. Nope. He's still alive. OSU just headed into the locker room up by 21 at halftime. "Richard Grieco cannot be happy right now," JackO says.
4:52: We were just joking about Oden's class schedule at Ohio State -- he gets a class credit for basketball, and he's taking Sociology 101 and the History of Rock and Roll. No wonder he likes being in college. Do you think he has to rush back to his hotel tonight to finish his midterm paper on Van Halen? "It's a compare and contrast between the David Lee Roth Era and the Sammy Hagar Era," JackO jokes.
4:54: Note to CBS: Save the money you're spending on those blimp shots and use it toward a fourth set of HD cameras. We've all seen what a basketball arena looks like from 20,000 feet. It's not that exciting.
4:55: JackO asks House to go on Amazon.com to check out Len Elmore's new book, "Defense Wins Championships
and Other Cliches I Use During the Course of the Day."
4:57: Unequivocally, the worst moment of the day: Michigan State forward Idong Ibok dislocating his elbow, followed by CBS deliberating for a minute before springing the HD close-up of his elbow bulging in the wrong direction. Dick Enberg's voice has dropped to "I just witnessed an attempted presidential assassination" proportions. It was that bad.
(Speaking of Dick, how 'bout him announcing four straight games in one day? He's 72 years old! My dad is 13 years younger and couldn't even sit through four straight movies without peeing between 25 and 30 times. Unbelievable. Do they have Dick hooked up to a catheter? How is he doing this?)
5:04: "My team is about two impact guys short. My players are slowly running out of steam. My card is American Express."
(Translation: Duke 38, VCU 38, 40 seconds to go! Kevin Harlan's voice has moved to Defcon 4.)
5:06: Classic Duke moment: Clock running down, end of the half, Paulus gets trapped near the VCU bench and has to throw up a 3-point heave
and they call a touch foul on VCU. Even Coach K seems embarrassed. Really, we have to rig games for a team everyone hates? That's what we've resorted to? I need a break. Back in around an hour.
EVENING SESSION: HOUR 2
5:15: Since we're at halftime for every game except the OSU blowout, here are my six favorite e-mails of the day so far:
1. I play co-ed kickball here in San Diego.
What do you think it would cost to have Gus Johnson announce one of our games? No matter what the cost is, I think I'd pay it.
-- Brendan M., San Diego
2. Is there any way that Congress can step in and take away CBS's contract to broadcast March Madness. I did not buy a 72 inch HDTV for a picture that looks like I'm viewing it under water. Shouldn't they have to prove they can broadcast in HD for longer than five minutes before they can be awarded March Madness? I need a Valium.
-- Brian, Indy
3. Did you hear the announcer on the Maryland-Davidson game just say that last year Maryland lost their point guard to academics? It's really a shame because you never know when academics might strike.
-- Kaveh, Orlando
4. JackO has the wrong guy (Darryl Strawberry) pegged for re-enacting Shooter coming out of the stands. Did you get to watch any Oklahoma State games this year? Every home game they would scan up into the stands and show Eddie Sutton sitting there in a catatonic state. I just kept waiting for him to come down on the court screaming and flailing his arms around. Unfortunately, Oklahoma State decided to lay an egg against Marist so we'll have to wait until next year for this to happen.
-- Alex, Dallas
5. The Duke players are currently going crazy because they've opened up a six-point lead on VCU. My how the mighty have fallen.
-- JB, Chicago
6. I'm sitting here wondering why CBS has Gus Johnson calling this Louisville blowout when an idea hit me. You know how CBS switches mercifully throughout the first four days of March Madness to the most exciting games, especially possible last second upsets? Why can't they use Gus Johnson as the Closer? Whenever there is a tight one-point game with two minutes left (or a similar nail-biting situation), just switch the coverage to that game, kill the audio feed of whoever is announcing and let Gus Johnson call it solo until the end. And, in keeping with the Closer theme, he could use Mariano Rivera's entrance music. Who wouldn't drop everything and run in from the kitchen or whip their head up from the computer when they heard that music?
-- Zack W., Austin
5:17: With OSU up by 24, Gus tells us that Jamar Butler has really caused problems for Central Connecticut State. "So did the opening tipoff," JackO says.
5:20: Our first Quadruple Urkin of the day! We just had all four games in commercial. Now we're hoping for a Quadruple Mellencamp Urkin -- all four channels showing the "This is ouuuuuuuur country" ad at the same time. Keep your fingers crossed.
5:24: My editor Philbrick calls to admonish me for writing "Ron Paulus" instead of "Greg Paulus" for the second time this week. Hey, other than the fact that they play different sports for different schools, I would have been right on that.
5:26: Great plan by CBS and the NCAA here -- three games at halftime and only OSU going
you know, the game that was a mortal lock to be a blowout. Savvy programming there. "We need to keep Gus away from a strip joint tonight," JackO jokes. "He's got so much pent-up energy right now, I don't know what could happen."
5:29: A prolonged Quadtruple Urkin. That lasted for about two minutes. "They always say putting together the schedule is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle," House hisses. "What is it, a jigsaw puzzle of a giant poop?"
5:30: Highlight of the night: A shot of the VCU cheerleaders coming out of commercial, followed by a couple of beats and House saying, "Oooh, look how young that one looks," followed by JackO saying, "The last time that sentence was said with that much intensity, the guy who said it ended up at Chris Hansen's house."
5:33: VCU takes the lead (44-43) in the only game that's single digits right now. Meanwhile, we're busy remembering our favorite "To Catch a Predator" shows. In my opinion, they'll never surpass the one with the rabbi unless they can lure Roman Polanski over there.
5:43: The bad news: Duke just extended its lead to seven. The good news: DirecTV has an actual Urkin Channel (704) that shows all four games at once in mini-boxes. What would happen if that disturbing Dick Vitale/Hooters ad was running in all four boxes at the same time? Would my TV explode? Would my head explode?
5:45: This stat sums the night up: Marquette (trailing 37-24) has only made two two-point FGs tonight. The record? Five.
5:46: Finally, our first upset of the day: The Weber State cheerleaders are cuter than the UCLA cheerleaders. We're all in shock.
5:49: All right, the officiating has been so one-sided in the VCU-Duke game that (A) the fans are booing the refs after every call even though the game's being played in a neutral site, and (B) House just logged online to check out the total fouls. What a disgrace.
5:51: JackO's review of the preview for the new Adam Sandler/Don Cheadle movie: "I'll either see that movie or gouge my own eyes out. I'm not sure which."
5:56: It's getting chippy in the VCU-Duke game -- Paulus just got fouled hard twice and even exchanged a couple extracurricular bumps with Eric Maynor, followed by the obligatory shot of Coach K carrying on like the VCU players just went after Paulus with a chainsaw or something. I have to say, it's fun to have Duke around. They're fun to hate.
5:57: We just convinced JackO to dust off his imitation of Coach K screaming at the refs crossed with one of those old Hitler speeches where he'd get madder and madder as the speech went along. High comedy. He's been doing that one since we were in college. We need to get that on YouTube before JackO has a heart attack from the pastrami sandwich he ate.
6:00: As Harlan lists the foreign players on VCU's team (including two from Cameroon), we have this exchange:
Wenzel: "You know what they call the cheering section for those two?"
Wenzel: "The Cameroon Crazies."
(They both laugh uproariously.)
6:00: JackO: "Now I think they're both drunk."
6:05: Scoreboard check: MSU by 18, UCLA by 27, OSU by 21 (final), VCU by 6.
6:08: Here's a sentence that Chad Ford needs to add to his draft profile for Josh McRoberts in the "weaknesses" section: He's the kind of guy who flops for a foul while screaming "ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" at the same time.
6:10: VCU nails a 3
suddenly they're down one. I'm not getting my hopes up. Burned too many times tonight.
6:15: VCU 68, Duke 67
six minutes to play. Shhhhhhhh. Back in an hour.
EVENING SESSION: HOUR 3
6:17: Duke 70, VCU 70, four minutes to play, Duke wearing down
and we just figured out who the VCU coach looks like.
Solomon Wilcots! That's a relief. I'm glad we can move on.
6:25: VCU up one, two minutes left. Duke looks spent. This seems like a good time to mention that I picked VCU to make the Sweet 16. I'm giddy. Eric Maynor's gonna win this game for VCU. I can feel it. That's my guy.
(Note: I swear on my kid's life, I typed the previous paragraph in real time. You'll understand why I needed to mention this in a second.)
6:29: Duke short-arms two straight 3s, then ties VCU up and gets the possession arrow. "You know what the real story is?" House asks. "Duke stopped recruiting good athletes at the swing spots. Whatever happened to the days of Grant Hill and Corey Maggette? It's like Coach K is trying to win with a degree of difficulty."
6:31: We're all stunned that McRoberts has a 21-11 right now. Tie game, 1:30 left. If he's one of the top 20 draft prospects in college basketball, I demand a recount. He's like a homeless man's Darko Milicic, only if he spent the last seven summers at Bill Laimbeer Summer Camp.
6:32: Maynor just made a runner AND inadvertently gave Jon Scheyer a Kobe-esque elbow over the eye (opening up a cut). VCU by two. VCU has manhandled Duke in this game. Let there be no doubt.
6:33: Paulus and Maynor exchange driving runners. VCU by two, 50 seconds left!
6:34: Classic McRoberts: Duke missed a jumper and McRoberts drew a loose ball foul by reacting to a bump under the basket like he'd just been shot. Fortunately, he's about to miss one of these free throws
and there it is! Thank you, Josh McRoberts. "Coach K should have spent his summer recruiting instead of coaching the U.S. in the World Championships," House jokes.
6:36: What a sequence: VCU misses one of two free throws
Duke's DeMarcus Nelson comes flying back down the length of the court with a layup (10 seconds left)
and Maynor calmly comes down the court, waves everyone away and drains a killer 20-footer with 1.8 left. That was Arenas-esque! Maybe now he'll finally crack Chad Ford's top 60.
6:37: Classic shot of Christian Laettner sitting in the stands and looking like he just threw up in his mouth. House immediately breaks into the Pitino voice: "Christian Laettner isn't walkin' through that door
Grant Hill isn't walking through that door
6:38: Duke inbounds to Paulus for a 3
no good! Our first upset of the day! That leads to this uncomfortable exchange in the studio show about Maynor (22 points, eight assists) and his heroics:
Seth Davis (excited): "Eric Maynor was just absolutely sensational, EVERY big shot, every big play on both ends of the floor, he's the guy who made it."
Kellogg: "He got it done."
(Two seconds of awkward silence. Finally, Gumbel starts laughing, as if this was funny. Somebody please put this clip on YouTube.)
6:43: Time to review my day so far: 11 of 12 in my bracket; 3-0 on the wagers I would have made if gambling was legal; one pastrami sandwich; no beers; and nearly 35,000 words written. Time to crack open my first Smithwick's of the day! Get ready for a barrage of typos over the next two hours.
6:46: Just stood up and realized that my butt cheeks were sound asleep. Hey, here are our highlights from the first 10 hours in no particular order:
1. The VCU-Duke ending and Kellogg's "he got it done" comment
2. Kellogg's Stanford pick
3. Marquette threatening to be shut out.
4. The Sports Gal driving 50 minutes roundtrip to pick up lunch from Oinkster.
5. Anything and everything involving Bob Wenzel.
6. Belmont's whitewash
7. The Lopez twins, Brook and Bilo
8. Gus Johnson ... a smoldering volcano.
9. House and I sweeping the bets that we would have won if gambling was legal.
10. The Quadruple Urkin.
(This should be its own poll on ESPN.com.)
6:48: Our last slate of games: Wright St.-Pitt; Eastern Kentucky-UNC; Gonzaga-Indiana; and BYU-Xavier (BYU leads 12-11). Can't say it's an electric group. I think I need to pull a Namath and guarantee a Gonzaga win to mix things up.
6:54: For the 57th time today
This is ouuuuuuuuuuur country. Taking a 15-minute break before my kid forgets what I look like.
7:10: And we're back! Still reeling from the fact that there's an Ainge on BYU (Danny's son Austin). If Danny signed Brian Scalabrine to a $15 million contract, what would he give his own son? $30 million? $40 million? Let's hope we never find out.
7:12: It's Indiana 20, Gonzaga 17, eight minutes to go in the first half
shouldn't there be cameras in Josh Heytvelt's dorm room right now? He's probably staring at his ceiling and wondering why it keeps turning into a gypsy.
7:13: Question: Is Jamie Dixon coaching Pitt or running for Senate? It looks like he bought the Mitt Romney Starter Kit.
7:17: UNC 17, Eastern Kentucky 3 and Pitt 15, Wright State 2. Think we'll cross those two off the channel-flicking rotation -- we're down to the Gonzaga game and the BYU game (BYU's up 3). Hey, here's a question: How come "SNL" hasn't made fun of the OnStar ads yet? How easy would that be?
7:20: You know what's sad? We're anxiously awaiting halftime of the BYU-Xavier game for more of Clark Kellogg's wisdom. Could they make it through the entire day without anyone making fun of Kellogg's Stanford pick? It might happen.
7:25: JackO thinks Derek Raivio should have one name -- "Raivio" -- like he's Fabio or something. Intriguing idea. Meanwhile, Raivio just turned into a giant lizard on Josh Heytvelt's TV.
7:26: CBS avoids Kellogg completely and opts for those "live look-ins" where they make us feel like Peeping Toms. Interesting move. Back in 75-90 minutes with the final installment of today's running diary.
EVENING SESSION: HOUR 4
7:30: James Brown just read the following promo during the Zags-Hoosiers game: "Monday at CSI Miami -- the murder is cold but the suspects are hot!"
What does that even mean? Fortunately, that leads JackO to put on his sunglasses and say Caruso lines while pulling them off for the next two minutes, including my personal favorite, "Looks like somebody picked the wrong place
(taking off glasses)
to go to spring break."
7:33: As we flick to the day's umpteenth blowout (Carolina 39, Eastern Kentucky 14), House has a great suggestion: "Let's expand the tournament to 72 teams, have the worst 16 play each other on Tuesday and weed out these crappy teams that clinched bids so teams like Syracuse and Kansas State could have gotten in. Plus, we'd have more games to pick! And Vegas would be happy!"
(Intriguing. Sure, it would destroy the NIT
but intriguing. These are the revelations you come up with after 10 straight hours of drinking.)
7:36: One silver lining today: No Billy Packer.
"That means we get him tomorrow though," JackO points out.
(The room falls silent.)
7:39: Pittsburgh 22, Wright State 22
what? When did this happen? Where was JackO (our remote control guy) during the Wright State run?
"Sorry, I've been drinking," he tells us. Well, then.
7:43: Dan Bonner accidentally calls Austin Ainge "Danny Ainge." Sadly, he leaves out, "Sorry, I've been drinking." But we're all getting punchy. Remind me never to do a running diary of an entire day again. No, really.
7:46: The following exchange just caused House to get cut off at the man cave bar:
House: "If you run Jake Voskuhl through an English translator, you get Aaron Gray."
JackO: "But Jake Voskuhl's English?"
House: "I don't care."
7:49: Before I forget, one recommendation from the Borat DVD: Check out the deleted scenes where Borat gets a massage and they do the Baywatch parody. An unequivocal tour de force. I'd like to personally thank Sasha Baron Cohen and Will Ferrell for bringing back erections as a comedic device. It had been far too long.
7:56: JackO pours himself a Guinness (perfect pour), then spends the next five minutes making fun of my beard. I haven't shaved in three weeks. "You look like Gil Grissom in 'CSI'," JackO keeps saying. "If only you were standing over a dead hooker right now."
8:02: Poor House ate and drank so much over the past 24 hours, he looks like the "before" picture in a Nutrafit ad. "I need to make a toilet soon," he tells us in the Borat voice. Good to know.
8:03: Newsflash to Indiana: You don't have to keep wearing your warm-ups from the Kent Benson Era. You can get new ones.
8:05: Xavier makes a huge run to rally back within two against BYU with 10 minutes to play. "March Madness at his best!" Gus Johnson screams. He's desperate for a good game. We'll cut him some slack.
8:06: Another Quadruple Urkin! We even enjoyed it on channel 704. That was fun.
8:09: Xavier 57, BYU 55. "What an atmosphere!" Gus shrieks. He's like a drunk guy talking himself into a butter-face girl at two in the morning right now. What a body!
8:10: JackO's opinion on the BYU game: "I have no affection or animosity for either team." That about sums it up. You know it's a meaningless NCAA game when you can't even remember who you picked.
8:13: With the frame of mind Gus is in right now, here's how he'd announce someone pulling into a parking space: "He puts his blinker on, he pulls his car into the space
8:14: Actual quote from Gus: "Ainge
whoaaaaaaaaaa!" He's in the zone right now.
8:15: House is furious that the BYU cheerleaders are smoking-hot but off-limits (because they can only hook up with Mormons). That leads to the following exchange in the Borat voices:
House: "I can't go near that vajeen."
JackO: "Their cheerleader coach is taunting you outside your cage and screaming, 'You will never get dis, you will never get dis!'"
8:22: UNC 48, Eastern Kentucky 44? That has to be a typo, right?
8:23: Nope. They just came back from commercial -- not a typo. Dick Enberg has moved into full-fledged "Oh my!" mode. By the way, Eastern Kentucky's abbreviation in the mini-scoreboard is "E KY." If only they were playing Oral Roberts.
8:26: Suddenly UNC's up by 11. Hey, did you hear that Tyler Hansbrough is playing with a mask? Yeah! I swear to God. He's got a mask on!
8:29: You know it's time to wrap up the day when you sit through commercials featuring Tiki Barber (Cadillac) and Jim Nantz (Circuit City). That sequence almost made us long for the silky sounds of Mr. John Cougar Mellencamp. Almost.
8:35: Really good ending to the BYU-Xavier game -- they just traded baskets for the last two minutes as Gus tried to rein himself in. Now it's 73-71, Xavier -- BYU has the ball with 35 seconds left and we're waiting for the timeout to end. Come on. Give Gus one buzzer-beater to call. Come on.
8:37: Dammit! BYU misses two shots, Xavier gets the rebounds and nails two free throws to clinch the game. Poor Gus. No buzzer beater. Maybe Saturday.
8:39: Xavier wins by two. Pitt's up by 21, UNC's up by 15 and Indiana's leading Gonzaga by 11 with four minutes to go. "Guess what?" House says, giving up on our Gonzaga pick. "Dan Dickau isn't walking through that door. Ronny Turiaf isn't walking through that door
My final tally: One great game, one good game, 14 forgettable games, 13-for-16 in my bracket, all of my Sweet 16 teams still alive, 3-for-4 on bets that we would have made if gambling was legal, 12 hours and over 8,000 words written, 45 Borat references, two drained buddies. And on that note, we're calling it a night.
The schedule for tomorrow: We're back for the first two batches of games (through Friday afternoon East Coast time), then we're calling it quits to fully enjoy the Texas and Holy Cross games. See you at noon.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His book "Now I Can Die In Peace" is available in paperback.