One Day, One Bar and Lots Of TVs

By Jerry Palm - March 22, 2008

DENVER -- I set out yesterday determined to find the best sports bar in Denver, plop myself down, and watch about 12 hours of hoops. I succeeded in finding the Blake St. Tavern, where every seat in the house had a view of at least 4 TVs with different games. It ended up being a great day to watch games in a crowd, even if you were alone in the crowd.

Our day started with American giving Tennessee a good fight -- not quite a Belmont level fight -- but they deserved better than the 15-point final margin.

While that was winding down, we turned to watch the Stephan Curry show in Raleigh. Curry scored 30 in the second half, with the crowd in the bar going nuts with every one of his threes. Curry's hot hand pushed Davidson into the second round, to the delight of many in the bar who picked the Wildcats on their pool sheets.

We also kept one eye on the similar performance by Jack McClinton of Miami against St. Mary's. McClinton had a 32-point second half to lead his team to a come-from-behind win. Tough morning for the WCC, but things would improve.

By then, Drake had begun its remarkable comeback on Western Kentucky. Josh Young rains in a couple of long threes, to the confusion of the guys next to me. "What's he doing? He's not open! That's 25 feet away!" That's Josh Young. I saw that at Illinois State this year.

Drake eventually forces overtime, grabs the led there, only to lose on a 25-30 footer from Ty Rogers at the buzzer, which send the bar up for grabs. Later, we get a replay from the WKU radio broadcast, where that announcer called it a 38-footer. For you folks in the Bowling Green area, he exaggerated that a bit.

The second session was a little less inspiring with Georgetown, Texas and Butler cruising to easy wins, so we mostly watched San Diego attempt to hold off Connecticut. UConn played with very little passion and seemed confused most of the time. It probably didn't help that A.J. Price got hurt in the first half and didn't return. The Huskies seemed to have no answer for Gyno Pomare and Brandon Johnson, but still managed to force OT.

Pomare and Johnson fouled out in OT, but Rob Jones hit clutch shot after clutch shot, and then the jumper by De'Jon Jackson with just over a second left won it for USD and saved some face for the WCC.

For the afternoon session, the clientele in the bar was almost exclusively male. However, there was one woman who came in and sat by herself. She was sipping wine and watching Georgetown. You would have hardly noticed that she was there, except you rarely see a woman in a sports bar by herself.

I saw a lot of different school t-shirts being worn by the crowd. Several were for teams playing yesterday, like Indiana, Arkansas, Oregon and Oklahoma. Others were for teams that played the first day, like Purdue, Wisconsin, Kansas, UCLA and Baylor. One guy had an Ohio State hat on, but they are in the NIT. The one thing noticeably missing was any fans of the teams actually playing here in Denver. Maybe the bar I was at was a little too far off the beaten path.

The bar was plenty full for the evening session, and it was much more of a mixed gender crowd. The only really competitive game of the first set was Oregon and Mississippi State, which saw Oregon lead at the half, only to go stone cold in the second, much to the dismay of the Duck fan at the table next to me.

We mostly sat, jaws agape, at the performance by Siena. And Vanderbilt too, I suppose. I picked this upset, but nobody say 83-62 coming. Vandy never seriously threatened.

And finally, among the last group of games, the one that had our attention for the most part was Indiana and Arkansas. The guys sitting next to me were fascinated by the girth of Hoosier freshman D'Andre Thomas, who is listed at 6-foot-8, 295 pounds. I'm not sure they believed me entirely when I told them that he actually lost 60 pounds since last year.

IU had a freshman superstar in Eric Gordon (who stunk last night) and a senior stud in DJ White and they wasted it. Mostly due to the shenanigans of the former coach, and his subsequent dismissal. Even before that, I felt IU was a little overrated, but after the coaching change, the kids seemed to pack it in -- White excepted. White went down swinging.

In the back room here, there was a Memphis alumni party. We never heard them, but there were about 40 Tiger grads back there watching their game.

Once Arkansas had things in hand, it was time to turn our attention to Villanova, who had come from way back to overtake Clemson. The Wildcats looked like they had things in hand until Jay Wright picked up a late technical foul for disagreeing with a call. That helped push Clemson to tie the game, but 'Nova responded and picked up the fourth upset of the day in Tampa.

That was the first time ever four lower seeds won at one site in one day. I was glad to see somebody got their money's worth. Three great games, four big upsets. The exact opposite of what we had in Denver. Hopefully, we'll have more compelling action today.

Posted by Jerry Palm at 07:06 AM on March 22, 2008

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