Tag Archives: March Madness

Your NCAA Tournament Opening Weekend Roundup

Welcome to the 102nd edition of Tuesdays With Mitch, where we only play the piccolo and cry when there’s no one else around. Let’s get into it…

(USATSI)

The best four days in sports kicked off Thursday morning at 10 and wrapped up Sunday night at about 10. Those 84 hours saw 48 basketball games that ended 48 teams’ seasons before they were ready. Things started off with a bang when two 14-seeds upset a pair of teams that many predicted would make the Final Four. So for a while it looked like we were heading for four days of wild and crazy bonkers-ness. But the next three and a half days fizzled a little bit and produced a weekend that was, on the whole, actually pretty bland. Last year in my recap of the tournament’s opening weekend I wrote about a wild Thursday, saying:

…And this year’s NCAA Tourney Thursday might have been the best NCAA Tourney Thursday ever. Four of the 16 games went to overtime, which has never happened before. Four of the twelve regulation games were decided at the buzzer or in the final minute. So literally half of the games on Thursday came down to the final seconds. Three double-digit seeds won. Three more choked away a would-be victory. Colorado was embarrassed…

It was a glorious, unbelievable day.

This year failed to produce a day that came close to that. Those two crazy upsets that sent Iowa State and Baylor home on Thursday turned out to be a misnomer. Saturday, for example, had only two games decided by fewer than 8 points (though Butler-Notre Dame did go to overtime and NC State upset 1-seeded Villanova by three points). Sunday was even worse with zero games being decided by less than six points.

There were some upsets, sure. But in terms of wild, thrilling, did-you-see-that finishes, the weekend certainly underwhelmed.

Now, to be clear, an underwhelming opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament is still better than most any other sporting event. I enjoyed plenty of fun and awesome and memorable and exciting moments of college basketball from Thursday morning through Sunday night.

Here are my favorites:

The best moment of the tournament’s opening weekend came on Thursday afternoon, just a few hours after it all started. Here’s a quick background: 14-seed Georgia State is down by two to 3-seed Baylor in the game’s final seconds. A few days prior, when Georgia State clinched their tourney invite, head coach Ron Hunter tore his Achilles during the team’s celebration, so he’s coaching this game on a little wheeley-stool-type-thing with big ol’ cast on his foot/leg. His son is Georgia State’s best player, R.J. Hunter, a future first-round NBA draft pick. With the game on the line, the younger Hunter buried an unreal three from about 25 feet out. His injured coach/dad was stoked and produced an all-time great Vine that I’ve watched approximately 500 times.

I like the wide angle better, but the close-up of Hunter is also pretty awesome:

So are these still shots:

@MattNorlander

Great stuff, folks.

So that was the tournament’s best moment to date. This next one from Saturday night was the most “viral”:

Obviously, the internet was going to have some fun with this one. Here’s my favorite edit:

And within 48 hours she was on the nation’s most popular late night talk show. What a world.

Notre Dame’s Pat Connaughton might have made the play of the tournament with this sick block of a shot that would have won the game for Butler. Absolutely awesome video here.

This is a remarkably underrated Vine from Friday evening. Every time I come across it, I stop and watch it like twenty times.

Before the real tournament even started, we had this moment from Wednesday night’s play-in game. Getting pantsed is cool, but check out the cheerleaders’ reaction:

One of the coolest things about the tournament is fans getting the opportunity to watch players they haven’t seen much throughout the year. For me, this player was D’Angelo Russell. I’ve known for a while that Russell is going to be a top-5 pick, but for whatever reason, I just haven’t been able to watch him a whole lot this year. Ohio State didn’t make it out of the opening weekend, but Russell was a one-man highlight reel.

And check this no-look dime.

And of course, I spent last week ranting and raving about Colorado State’s snub and the ludicrous inclusion of UCLA. It was the most-read post I’ve had in a while. So what happens next? Naturally, Colorado State, the #1 overall seed in the NIT, loses at home to South Dakota State and UCLA makes the Sweet 16.

I would like to take a moment to emphasize one point:  A team’s performance, good or bad, in either the NIT or the NCAAs does nothing to merit the selection committee’s decision. Those decisions are made on what’s been done, not a team’s projected in performance in a separate tournament.

UCLA and Texas could both make the Final Four with CSU immediately losing in the NIT and that would still not justify the committee’s inclusion of those brands over a more deserving team.

And I can’t really blame CSU for coming out flat for what turned out to be their last game of the year. They were emotionally drained. They lacked focus and energy, especially early. And that’s all fair. Not overly surprising. Not something I’m going to fault them for.

An opportunity for some decent national exposure (had they gotten to play in Madison Square Garden) went down the drain, but if we’re honest we know that nobody gives a damn about the NIT. CSU’s season truly ended on Selection Sunday.

Off to the weekly departments…

Douche of the week:

A few weeks ago I ranked Allie LaForce pretty high on my Swoon Index (#5, but that might have been too low). So naturally, I AM NOT DOWN WITH THIS.

Photo(s) of the week:

CBS Sports tweeted an awesome gallery of the best pictures from the opening weekend. These are my favorites (along with the one at the top of this page).

A cool shot from the play-in game in Dayton. (Getty)

Ron Hunter hugs his son as he comes out of his last game of the year. (USATSI)

I just put this in here because Fred VanVleet is probably my favorite player in the country. (Getty)

Tweet(s) of the week:

A couple Las Vegas hotels tweeted out some pretty funny videos of a meaningless layup in the final seconds of the VCU – Ohio State game. VCU is down by five, and throws in a layup at the buzzer so the Rams only lose by three. This made a bunch of people happy.

Stud of the week:

Finally seeing Garth Brooks live crossed an item off my bucket list. (John Lebya, Denver Post)

This post is a little shorter than a lot of other weeks because it took me about two full days to recover from a concert I attended late on Saturday night (and into Sunday morning)*.

*Not that I was, like, wasted. I’ve learned from experience that concerts are more fun when you remember them.

I’m told I started listening to Garth Brooks when I was about four years old and I do remember the cassette of his self-titled debut album always kicking around in my dad’s car. So saying I grew up with Garth Brooks is not at all an exaggeration. I have the hard copies of eight or nine of Garth’s albums with a few other downloads peppered in. I honestly think I know every word to every song on every one of those albums.

Garth was “retired” by the time I started going to concerts and prior to this week, he hadn’t played in Denver since I was eight years old. So by the time I truly learned to appreciate and enjoy his music, I had come to the realization that I would probably never be lucky enough to see him play live. So saying I’ve waited pretty much my whole life to see Garth Brooks, that too, is not at all an exaggeration.

I’ve known that much of Garth’s astounding success is due to his live shows and I’ve seen plenty of YouTube’d or DVR’d concerts. But at the risk of repeating what 25 people have already put in your Facebook feed, it was pretty damn awesome.

Singing along as Garth let the crowd take over on Unanswered Prayers (like I’ve done while listening to Double Live hundreds of times) was worth double the price of admission. But so was screaming the live-only third verses on The Thunder Rolls and Friends In Low Places (like I’ve done while listening to Double Live hundreds of times.)

And, damn, it was loud. I have definitely never been to a concert that was as loud as the Pepsi Center was between every song. It was probably the loudest I’ve ever heard that place, which is saying something.

Garth will do a little of the corny, you-guys-are-the-best-crowd-yet stuff that may make you might roll your eyes. But that’s just Garth being Garth. He plays to the crowd and does it well. Overall though, Garth sings the songs you want to hear and does it with the passion and energy that’s made him a zillion dollars over the past quarter-century, even if it’s his second show of the night and it’s well past 1 a.m. on Sunday morning.

And I know this is an original opinion, but it’s pretty damn awesome.

NBA Tank Watch 2015:

The Nuggets continue to choke this thing away. They’ve held steady in the 8-spot of the Tankandings, and it looks pretty clear that played themselves out of a high lottery pick, which is kind of astounding when you think about how bad they were and how little they cared under Brian Shaw..

  1. New York, .197, 14-57
  2. Minnesota, .229, 16-54
  3. Philadelphia, .243, 17-53
  4. L.A. Lakers, .265, 18-50
  5. Orlando, .306, 22-50
  6. Sacramento, .348, 24-45
  7. Detroit, .371, 26-44
  8. Denver, .380, 27-44

Some links I enjoyed and you should too:

And finally, CJ Anderson bought his grandma a car and that’s pretty damn awesome.

Grandparents are the best.

Happy Tuesday everybody. Thanks for reading. See ya next week.

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Comment on any of this stuff below, or email me at mdhahn1@yahoo.com with post ideas, videos or other media I should know about. Subscribe at the top right of this page. Follow me on Twitter @TuesWithMitch.

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The Evolution of Moby, Court-Rushing Etiquette, The Biggest Game in Years and Other Thoughts Regarding CSU Basketball

The following will be a long, meandering post regarding the state of Colorado State basketball.

Let’s start with my experience at Moby Arena last Wednesday night. No, actually let’s start with when I became a regular at The Whale. I started going to CSU games on the reg my freshman year which was… let me think here, the 2006-2007 season. That team was actually pretty decent for a while. Jason Smith was first-team all Mountain West. I remember a couple games with decent crowds and good energy that year. Upsets of BYU and a Bob Huggins-coached Kansas State team jump out in my memory. The season peaked when CSU received one tally in the “others receiving votes” column of the national rankings. While that’s all well and good, things kind of fell apart from that moment on– not just for the season, but for the program as a whole. Dale Layer was fired. Smith entered the NBA draft. Everyone else on the team transferred somewhere. Some dude from North Dakota State was hired to coach. He went 0-16 his first year in the Mountain West. I was at most of those home games.

Tim Miles vs. Air Force

Tim Miles plays a little defense in a win against Air Force. Miles has led an impressive transformation of a downtrodden program. AP Photo.

My overall memory of Moby Arena in my time as a student do not contain the words Madness, Magic or Maniacs. What I remember is the student sections (Yes CSU splits the student section in two, which is dumb) usually filling about halfway up.

I remember the big scoreboard that had to be as old as my parents. There was no state-of-the-art videoboards. That meant no pregame video introductions. No replays. No speeches from Ron Burgundy. The damn thing was missing about 20 percent of its light bulbs and every five minutes would advertise snacks at the concession stands by flashing the words “NACHOS!” or “HOT DOGS!”. When it wasn’t doing that, it was providing some 1960s-quality animation of a cheerleader jumping up and down or flashing the word “NOISE” to the 1,800 people there. Hard to believe that technique wasn’t all that effective.

One game (I wanna say Utah, junior year) a friend and I were debating on whether or not to go; we didn’t. At halftime, CSU was surprisingly only a couple points down, so we decided what the hell, let’s catch the second half. We walked up during halftime and sat– literally– in the front row of the student section. The Rams lost. That was a common occurrence. When my friends and I joke that we are martyrs who went through four years of pain for the good of future students, we’re only half joking.

Fast forward to this season’s home finale. #17 UNLV. Wednesday. 8 p.m. I drove up from North Denver even though I had to work south of Denver early the next morning, meaning I would not being staying somewhere in FoCo and there would be no drinking. (Yes, in my day, the uncompetiveness of CSU turned many a game into nothing more than an excuse to party, which was welcome for my group of friends. I also realize uncompetiveness is not a word). Anyway, I picked up my longtime CSU-diehard friend and we hoped for the best. We didn’t try to acquire free student tickets using our old student IDs or talking to the slew of friends who are still up there. We treated this one like real-life alumni, CSU polos and all. (If you didn’t know, nothing says “alumni” of any college like a polo).

I’ve been to a few games after graduation. I saw Air Force this year in a mellow blowout. Last season it was BYU and San Diego State, both sellouts, both losses. The SDSU game was probably the biggest heartbreaker of my CSU career. There was a noticeable difference in the atmosphere and electricity for those games last year. But even those were nothing compared to Wednesday night. The student sections were packed over capacity and they were good and drunk and very loud and very into the game. It was great to see. The non-student crowd was pumped too, well, they were until UNLV started dominating.

Vegas was up 15 at halftime and it appeared the Mitch-Hahn-Big-Game-CSU-Curse was in full effect. When the Rebels went up 16 with under 17 minutes to play. I tapped my friend’s shoulder and said, “Let me know when you’re ready to go.”

Then the Rams flipped a switch and all hell broke loose. The entire near-sellout crowd was on its feet for the last 12 minutes of the fierce comeback. The student sections were doing their thing where they simply jump in rhythm to a hip-hop or techno song. That sounds a little lame, but it is freaking awesome. Stuff like that did not exist when I was there, much as I tried. The night culminated with this:

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Tim Miles, who is never afraid to flash a big smile, celebrates after beating UNLV at a raucous Moby Arena Wednesday night. AP Photo.

Moby Arena, you’ve come a long way.

That said, there’s still plenty of room for growth. In that video did you notice the students rushing the court? No? Well they did. It was the fourth time this season. FOURTH TIME! Colorado, SDSU, New Mexico and UNLV.

Okay before you get upset with me over what is apparently a sensitive topic, hear me out. I have no problem with the CSU fans rushing the court after beating UNLV. They completed a 16-point comeback against the #17 team in the country. The win had huge implications on the possibility of postseason play. Standing alone, there was nothing wrong Wednesday night’s celebration.

But just think if that was the first time the students rushed the court this year. How much more special would that have been? Now you might ask me, “So we’re only allowed to rush the court once a season?” Well, I don’t make the rules, but if I did I would say no.

You should rush the court less than once a season.

While we’re on the topic of student sections– and remember I was pumped to see how the CSU students came out and acted on Wednesday– there was a couple things that made me roll my eyes. Chanting “F***-The-Reb-els” is stupid. It just is. The vulgarity is stupid, but really, the fact that a 6th-grader could come up with a more creative chant is what bothers me. Not to worry though, because that was followed up with a “Rebels suck” chant when UNLV was up by like 14 points. Come on. I don’t think it takes a genius to see the stupidity in that.

Okay, I mentioned the possibility of postseason play earlier, allow me to elaborate on that. After the UNLV win Wednesday and handling Air Force on Saturday, most bracket projections have CSU in the tournament and most even removed them from their “Last 4 In” category. So, yes as it stands right now the Colorado State Rams are in the tournament. The thing is, the season is not quite over.

Jesse Carr vs. Duke

A tough schedule, including a game at Duke, has the CSU Rams ready to play in the NCAA tournament. Check out this video of Jesse Carr throwing it down on SportsCenter. Photo Courtesy Gary Brooome/AP.

The Rams play TCU Thursday at 3:30 in Las Vegas in the opening round of the Mountain West tournament. Lose that one, and Selection Sunday might not be much fun. TCU took CSU to double overtime in Fort Collins, then beat the Rams in Fort Worth, so this game is no gimmie. The Horned Frogs are a surprisingly athletic team and Hank Thorns was recently named All-Mountain West. I would guess CSU will be about 2 point favorites, but one would have to hope the Rams come out and preform well knowing the win-and-we’re-almost-for-sure-in situation. If CSU gets by TCU, they will (probably) play San Diego State in the semis. If I were a betting man, which I am, I would take CSU in this one. The Rams have played the Aztecs very, very tough in splitting the season series. A win against SDSU makes the Rams a lock.

I’m getting ahead of myself here. Forget anything I said about a second round matchup. Beat TCU on Thursday, and the Rams are probably gunna go dancing. Lose, and head to the NIT. That makes Thursday’s game the biggest CSU basketball game since 2003 when Matt Nelson and company lost to Duke in the first round of the NCAAs.

(By the way… please don’t ask me if winning the NIT would be better than getting into the tournament and losing in the first round. Screw that. You play all season with the hope of lacing ’em up in The Big Dance with the nation watching. You’re not dreaming about playing Northwestern or Iona on a Wednesday night).

Ram fans have good reason to be reluctant to get their hopes up, but Tim Miles’ scrappy bunch has proved to be resilient and tough over the course of this season. So here’s hoping they come up big this week, win a game or two, and realize their dream of playing in the NCAA tournament. Not just for the players, but for all the fans who remember the boring games, the empty arena, the losses and that damn scoreboard.

Dorian Green, Wes Eikmeier, Greg Smith. Photo courtesy,  Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Juniors Dorian Green, Greg Smith and All-Mountain West Wes Eikmeier have had plenty of reasons to smile this season. Photo courtesy Ethan Miller/Getty Images.