By John Boyle Herald Columnist
SEATTLE — Just know that I’m doing this for all of you 9-to-5ers out there.
I didn’t want to spend my entire Thursday watching college basketball — no, really, I didn’t — but because most of you can’t spend a Thursday watching the NCAA Tournament and get away with calling it work, I feel like it’s my duty to do this for the rest of you.
You’re welcome, readers.
A lot can be said for the NFL playoffs, or college bowl season, or that stretch of fall when baseball’s postseason overlaps with the NFL regular season. But for a lot of people, this week kicks off the best time of the year to be a sports fan. Not just because the first two weeks of the NCAA Tournament bring us so much drama and excitement, but because it kicks off a great stretch that includes college basketball, baseball’s opening day and the Masters.
And for the NFL diehards, there’s always free agency and the upcoming draft to keep you busy. Yes, it would be much better for local hoops fans if more local teams were in the tournament, be it Washington, Washington State, Seattle U or Eastern Washington (yes, even Eastern has made the Big Dance), but even if Gonzaga is the only in-state representation again this year as other local colleges continue to struggle, it’s still hard to beat the excitement the NCAA Tournament provides, especially in its opening week.
So if you weren’t lucky enough to spend your day watching hoops, here are a few highlights of what you missed.
For starters, no, you’re probably not going to win $1 billion from Warren Buffett, who was offering that up as a prize to anyone who could produce a perfect bracket. If you’re like me, your shot at riches went away one game into the tournament when Dayton, an 11 seed, upset sixth-seeded Ohio State.
Or maybe Harvard’s victory over Cincinnati, the obligatory a-12-seed-beats-a-five-seed-every-year game, did you in.
Or maybe you still have a perfect bracket, in which case, good job, you, but you’re still not winning Buffett’s billion unless you’re a real life Biff Tannen in possession of an updated version of Gray’s Sports Almanac (for those of you who aren’t children of the late 80s/early 90s, that’s a “Back to the Future Part II” reference).
And speaking of Ohio State, what a way to kick off the tournament, eh? The very first game of the tournament — sorry, I don’t count those play-in games — gave us a thrilling finish that saw Ohio State’s Aaron Craft give his team the lead with a circus layup with 15.5 seconds to play, only to watch Dayton’s Vee Sanford hit what turned out to be the game-winner with 3.8 seconds to go. A finish like that in Game 1 has to be a good omen for the rest of the tournament, right?
Well much of the rest of the day didn’t provide quite as much excitement, but Harvard’s victory over Cincinnati went down to the wire, Connecticut needed overtime to beat St. Joe’s, and even top-seeded Florida got a bit of a scare from Albany before pulling away late. Sure there were duds (I’m looking at you, Colorado), but as far as openers go, Thursday was a pretty entertaining day of hoops.
And apparently that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, because while I was writing the above paragraph, St. Louis and NC State gave us a fantastic finish, too, with the Billikens erasing a 16-point second-half deficit to force overtime.
And of course if you’re watching basketball all day, sometimes it helps to have a little entertainment outside of the game, which we got plenty of in many forms, be it Bill Rafferty faking an Irish accent while calling a layup, or CBS interviewing the adorable four-year-old grandson of St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli, who likes to put on a suit and pretend to be his coaching grandpa during game.
A day of non-stop hoops also was interrupted by news that the Seahawks were signing Jared Allen … No, wait, false alarm, he hasn’t signed yet.
And once it became pretty evident Allen wasn’t going to be a Seahawk on Thursday, and because it wouldn’t truly be a day of watching NCAA hoops without some socializing and a cold beverage, I ended my day of basketball watching by sipping a nice IPA while watching at the house my friend John, who had set up three TVs in his basement.
Just remember, folks, I’m doing this for you. I might even keep it up Friday. Again, you’re welcome.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.