Random Thoughts About the Tournament
March 21, 2011

The NCAA Basketball Championship Tournament still has two weekends remaining, but clearly the first one is why they call it March Madness. Out of the 67 played, 52 of them have already taken place. So with only 16 teams still alive after the 68 that started, some thoughts on what has happened so far...

So much for the Big East being the best basketball conference in the country. Nine of the 11 teams in the Tournament are gone, and the only ones that survived (Marquette and Connecticut) had to beat fellow conference members to advance to the Sweet 16... Virginia Commonwealth--the team that defeated USC in the Opening Round on Wednesday--becomes the first team under the new format to win three games to get to the Sweet 16.

With the Texas loss to Arizona, one of my Final Four teams is out and I only have 9 teams out of the 16 still in my brackets. I did pick Butler over Pittsburgh and had Florida State defeating Notre Dame though. Gotta hang my hat on something...I was more happy for San Diego State's double overtime win than disappointed in UCLA's loss.

BYU's Jimmer Fredette already played in Anaheim this year, losing to UCLA in the John Wooden Classic. Now, the other guy mentioned for player of the year will be there. Connecticut's Kemba Walker faces San Diego State Thursday night...I think paying customers in Charlotte got their money's worth. They saw Duke and North Carlina win in blowouts and a good Georgia-Washington game Friday, and the Blue Devils and Tar Heels with tough and exciting victories Sunday.

Local Flavor: Junior Florida State forward Bernard James is 26 years old. He spent six years in the Air Force, including deployments to Iraq and Qatar. But it was while stationed at Beale Air Force Base, just outside of Marysville, that he was "volunteered" to learn to play basketball. James is 6-10, 240 pounds and averages 8 points and 6 rebounds a game for FSU. James and the Seminoles face VCU Friday.

Best games: Morehead State's one-point win over Louisville (Big East) on Thursday, George Mason knocking off Villanova (Big East) on Friday, Butler upsetting Pittsburgh (Big East) Saturday (narrowly ahead of San Diego State-Temple), and Duke-Michigan on Sunday.

Worst games: Florida-UC Santa Barbara Thursday, Michigan's 30 point win over Tennessee Friday (Volunteers coach Bruce Pearl was fired this morning), BYU-Gonzaga Saturday, and Ohio State-George Mason Sunday.

Announcers: With Turner in the mix, the only play-by-play announcer brought in was Marv Albert. Kevin Harlan is primarily employed by Turner, but has done NCAA games on CBS for years...Turner did bring a lot of analysts including Reggie Miller and Steve Kerr. They also brought sideline reporter Craig Sager, famous for his wardrobe of brightly colored pastel suits. Sager even changed jackets Friday between the day and night sessions. Sheesh...Gus Johnson seems to be a favorite play by play guy, and he does get excited. Maybe a little too much so at times but he does make buzzer beaters all that more memorable...CBS considers Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg as their number one team. They may be the best but Verne Lundquist and Bill Rafterty are much more entertaining.

Glitches: CBS/Turner were caught off guard when President Obama gave a short address about Libya Friday morning. CBS planned to move the end of the Oakland-Texas game to TNT, but when Obama was late, things got a little screwy on both networks...TBS lost the announcers' audio for 10 minutes during the second half of the UC Santa Barbara-Florida game on Thursday. Instead of Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel, all you heard was crowd noise.

Pet peeves (This is where I go into my Andy Rooney impression): Announcers that use only the second half of a player's hyphenated last name. Nantz and Kellogg did that all weekend with Washington's Mathew Bryan-Amaning...I'm pretty sure "resiliency" is not a word.

It's interesting that in these days of checking the monitors for fractions of seconds on the clock in the final moments of a game, it was a referee keeping time in his head that may have cost Texas. Up 69-67 with 12.3 seconds remaining, the Longhorns, unable to inbound the ball, called timeout, but instead were called for a five-second violation. Running a stopwatch on a replay, I timed 4.57 seconds before the whistle blew. Arizona won 70-69.

Can we PLEASE change the rule back to the way it used to be that only players can call timeouts? Every time a coach calls one they have to check the monitor to see how much time is left. It needs to be changed back in football too.

On deck: San Diego State and BYU, both from the Mountain West Conference, play at the same time Thursday. At 4pm, CBS has SDSU-Connecticut while TBS carries BYU-Florida...TNT and TRU-TV are done. CBS and TBS will split coverage of the regional semifinals Thursday and Friday, then CBS goes solo the rest of the way.

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