March 18, 2007

New Orleans: A "best of" wrap-up

A sort-of best-of type of thing from New Orleans. Read on.

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New Orleans: Sorry about the technical problems, here's the write-up on the Memphis win over Nevada

Seven minutes.

That's what the game came down to. Because at just under the seven minute point of the second half, is when Memphis turned from Tigers to grave-diggers.

They buried any hopes of a comeback by Nevada, holding the Wolf Pack scoreless from the field in the last 6:59 of the game, en route to a 78-62 win.

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New Orleans: Sorry for the theatrics in last post. Florida winning easy now

The Gators are going to be victims of FoulFest now as they lead 68-62 with 30 seconds left.

Al Horford returned the dunk-you-vera-much greetings back at Purdue and also hit a spinning hook shot to help ice the game away for UofF.

Unless a collasal collapse ensues, Florida to the Sweet 16... where they'll have to play better.

New Orleans: White knuckle time, UofF 60-56, 2:49 left

Boy, would Al McGuire like this game.

Richards dunked. Humphrey finally hit a three. Landry dunked right back. Noah slammed to the floor. The crowd gasped. Noah hit two side-spinning free throws. Teague hit a three. Brewer decided NOT to throw the abll away again and hit a two-pointer. Lutz went right around Noah for a lay-up. Horford hit a hook-shot. Landry threw a cruddy pass. Kramer fouled.

This game is nuts.

Now it's Florida by four with just over two and a half minutes left. Stay tuned man.

New Orleans: You've been, Thunder-dunked!

Carl Landry is playing like a man possessed now and has given Purdue the AC/DC to tie this game back up at 47. In the last minute he's forced the third foul on Florida's Noah, forced a turnover and dunked in the tying points.

It's a new game now as we go to a time out with 7:57 left.

New Orleans: Uh-oh. You can start to feel it happening...

Florida point guard Taurean Green just hit two three-pointers in a row and Purdue can't seem to hit its shots. Crowd is charged-up. Score is now 43-38, Gators.

Green is now at 10 points and two assists, but I've got to admit, he's looked very shaky today making numerous bone-head passes and decisions. But he stayed cool and relaxed to hit those key three-pointers.

Purdue has to be careful here. Another turnover or forced shot and it could get ugly quick.

New Orleans: Fashion faux pas

Florida fan Tito Horford (the former LSU/Miami center and father of UofF's Al) is wearing a Florida jersey... which is okay, but you don't see many parents doing that. But he's wearing jean shorts with it (bad) and most egregious of all, a fanny pack (worse).

That's sooooo early 90s.

All Tito's missing is the high-top fade hair cut and he's ready for the Bobby Brown "My Prerogative" video shoot.

New Orleans: Pace favors UofF, but Purdue has lead

It's 25-18 Purdue at the 7:50 mark. A half-court game is more favorable for the laboring Boillermakers, but their defensive nastiness is causing the Gators all kinds of problems.

Carl Landry is a joy to watch and Freshman Chris Kramer doesn't play like one. Florida coach Billy Donovan has been reading the Riot Act to the refs in the last few times out. Probably has a point on a few of those calls/non-calls. Al Horford has been having the magic touch so far for Florida. Nice shots.

When Lee Humphrey starts to heat up for Florida, it could become a different game. Right now, it's weird to see him miss open looks.

Also, PU's Tarrance Crump is literally leaning on Florida's Tauren Green, while they wait on the ball to be thrown in. Just a small reminder to Green that Crump's gonna be in his jock all day.

New Orleans: 'bout to start up. Gillen is a beauty on radio

Memphis and Purdue crank things up here in The Crescent City in about 10 minutes.

Two quick observations:
1- In warm ups, Florida's Al Horford and Purdue's Carl Landry were standing at mid-court meeting with the officials. Horford may be listed at 6'10" and Landry at 6'7", but these two blokes were almost EXACTLY the same height. Someone's fibbing here.

2- I've noticed in the NCAA tournament, the sites that double as NBA arenas, like the one here, have huge NCAA logos taped down on center court to cover the NBA team logo. But, for example, Winston-Salem has the Wake Forest Demon Deacon logo intact at center court.

Listening to the Virginia-Tennessee game on radio driving in, color commentator Pete Gillen, a regular on CSTV during the roundball season, had a handful of wicked-funny lines. Here's a handful of my faves:

1- Talking about a Virginia player, "He's smart. He makes good decisions. He should be a stockbroker.

2- "Right now their feet are stuck in concrete."

3- "Like the North wind, he went right by him."

4- When asked by play-by-play man Kevin Kugler if he kicked a banner off of the table they are sitting at, Gillen responded with, "I've done a lot of wrong things in my life. But kicking the banner off the table wasn't one of them."

March 17, 2007

New Orleans: Day one wrap-up

Some exciting moments to say the least. But there was really only one game that came down to the wire as Nevada edged Creighton in overtime. But if you wanted some of the most exciting halves of basketball, you came to the right place. That nightcap of Jackson State and Florida was incredible. Of course, only for a half though. Here's a quick recap of what happened here in the Big Easy.

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March 16, 2007

New Orleans: Ho-hum, Florida's winning big now

UofF scored the first eight points of the second half, and it was pretty much over with from that moment on. It's now 75-51. 'Bout the only peculiar thing going on now is that Trey Johnson and Florida's Corey Brewer keep jawing at each other on the court every time one of them scores.

Oh, and I finally see Yannick Noah across the way from me. He's got cool hair. I'm jealous.

New Orleans: Trey Johnson needs to heat up

TreyJohnson.jpg

If Trey Johnson hadn't gone just 2-for-11, this game could be a much different story right now. His shooting is the key to the Tigers chances here in the second half.

New Orleans: About the most entertaining half of basketball I've seen

This crowd is electric. The "Sonic Boom" band is going nuts. The refs can't make a correct call to satisfy anyone. And Walter Payton U. is playing their hearts out. It's currently 41-35 at the half. Florida is ahead. And you just know they're about to blow this bad boy wide-arse open at any moment.

But it's been a freakin' riot so far. And here I was sorry that you guys couldn't be here to enjoy the wicked-awesome food and plentiful booze. Now I'm sorry you guys can't be here to see this.

JSU fumbled away a few lay-up opportunities, otherwise this might be a tie game or JSU could be ahead. Still, I can't imagine an effort that would keep this game close. I just hope it does. I'm having a blast.

New Orleans: Okay, so the dream is probably over

Florida has about five dunks in a row now and leads JSU 36-26. But my editor did contact me and say if something crazy happened and the first 16-seed in history won a game tonight, he wanted a full-blown article on the history-making event.

I think reality is setting in. Florida has gone to a zone that stretches from here to Argentina and has arms in every passing lane. Corey Brewer almost crashed my computer the old fashioned way trying to make a steal. So it looks like Florida means it now.

3:55 left in the half.

New Orleans: It's official. The CBS crew is for Jackson State

After frosh big-body Stanley Turner tipped back a missed free throw to make the score Jackson State 21-19, Verne Lundquist started clapping and laughing and turned around to see the JSU crowd behind us going nuts. Even Bill Raftery started chuckling.

It's now J-State 24-23. But boy, the refs are making any friends in these parts as the Tigers have been trying to draw charges like mad.

New Orleans: couple of observations

1- Jackson State's "warm-ups" look like "Jackson State basketball" sweatshirts that you could buy at the bookstore.

2- The Jackson State crowd was so jazzed about their "I'm so glad, I go to JSU" song, the whole crowd responded. Even Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery turned around and were giggly about the spirit of the crowd.

3- One thing JSU isn't, is timid. Everybody has a quick trigger, especialy scoring-machine Trey Johnson.

4- Joakim Noah has a sideways spinning free throw shot. I've never seen that in my life. Get ready for Hack-a-Noah defense in the NBA.

5- One thing I forgot from the last game, Matt Painter and Lute Olson were the only coaches I may have ever seen that actually wore their sport coats the whole game long.

6- Bill Raftery had to be told by fans sitting directly behind me that his zipper was undone as he was about to interview Painter.

7- Jackson State leads 15-12 over Florida.

New Orleans: Okay, so who here ISN'T for J-State?

Just tipped off. The crowd is shockingly pro Tigers. (Ha.)

New Orleans: Nothing left but FoulFest '07

Purdue will win. They're up by nine as I write this and Arizona is in foul-land. That one drawback to the NCAA tournement. Yawwwwwn! (As if I haven't lost enough sleep already)

Purdue will play on Sunday. Just get it over with soon boys.

New Orleans: Coaches stompin' mad and slappin' fives

You probably didn't see this on TV, but on the last exchange, Arizona's Lute Olson was so mad about no foul being called on a Purdue hack that he repeatedly stomped his feet in anger over not getting the call. Then, on the other end, David Teague made a crisp, sharp pass to a left-wide-open Chris Kramer under the goal for an easy two. Purdue coach Matt Painter reached out and slapped fives with Teague.

It's now 59-52, Purdue with 2:49 left.

Arizona had cut the game to two just moments ago.

New Orleans: Prediction...

When that overly-sappy "One Shining Moment" song is played at the end of the tournament, Chris Kramer's shot from his knees that he just made before the shot clock buzzer went off, will be on it.

Great play still. This kid is smart. He looks like Matt Damon, but is as smart as that character in "Good Will Hunting" when he goes on that 5-minute diatribe during the job interview.

New Orleans: I hate to keep saying it, but Purdue in non-freakin'-stop

Every loose ball is theirs. Every time there is a scramble for the ball, at least two Boilermakers are hitting the floor. Freshman Chris Kramer is one smart player, knowing when to take a charge, when to get into the passing lanes and when to make a hard-nosed play.

Another thing I notice about Purdue - they follow their shot better than anyone.

It's the Boilers, 45-36. 13:12 left.

New Orleans: Boilers living up to blue-collar name.

Let by a balanced attack and some hard-nosed, floor-burn type of play, Purdue takes the halftime lead of 37-34 over Arizona. PU leads the rebounding battle 19-to-14 and has hit five threes to go with seven steals to build its lead.

Chris Lutz has come off the bench to lead all scorers with 12 on the night so far. And just to show you the hustle factor, Purdue has 10 offensive rebounds already. Gordon Watt, who pales by Arizona standards at only 6'6" leads the game with six rebounds. Hard work boys. Hard work.

New Orleans: Music, girls, wicked food

Three quick things I forgot to add:

The Arizona band wins the best song award, probably for the entire weekend. Just before tip-off they played Oingo Boingo's "Insanity" off of their last album that came out in 1995 called "Boingo". Beauty of an obscure reference, but I dug it.

Secondly, I have to say that, so far, the Purdue cheerleaders are the best looking. Yes, Purdue. All of them extremely fit and flashing good abs in their outfits. Okay, so I could do without the matching white bows in their hair, but they are all very cute.

And did I mention that I was served jambalaya here between sessions at the New Orleans Regional? Oohhhhhhh yeah. I went back for seconds and thirds. Now if I just don't fall asleep during the game, that'd be great.

New Orleans: the kind of game Gene Keady would love

Because Purdue is winning (15-11) and they're out-playing a taller, more talented Arizona team so far.

Arizona comes into this game with four starters 6'7 or above. Purdue, meanwhile, has only one player 6'7 and the rest are, for the most part, guards out there. But once again, the Wildcats are being outplayed from the get-go - a reoccuring theme for them this year.

The way UofA is playing is openly hacking off Lute Olson. It's early, but the Boilers have come out smart.

New Orleans: Hair cut of the weekend

UNRbandmember.jpg

This Nevada bandmember will be able to sport this 'do and the wrestling make-up for at least one more game. Strong work Holmes.

New Orleans: Morrison-like

In the post-game press conference, Creighton head coach Dana Altman showed up with beet-red eyes. So you could tell that he was upset about this loss and no longer having the services of players like Nate Funk, Anthony Tolliver and Nick Porter - the three main seniors that were the glue to this team.

Tolliver spoke really well, as you'd guess from an Academic All American. Not a single "uh" "you know" or "basically" in any of his answers. Gotta like that in a college-age guy.

Nevada coach Mark Fox said he wasn't used to playing against NBA teams, but that he was going to ahve to do that this coming Sunday when the Pack takes on Memphis. He also said he wasn't surprised at all at the tremendous game put forth by Marcellus Kemp (27 points, 12 rebounds). "We're more than Nick Fazekas. I told him when he came off the floor, I was proud of him and we were going to get this game back, so be ready to go on Sunday."

New Orleans: Fazekas gives UNR a four point lead. Then fouls out

Two Nate Funk free throws make it 66-64 Nevada. But boy is Mark Fox peeved. It was another feather foul, to be honest. But it disqualifies Fazekas for the rest of the game.

It's a two-point lead with 3:06 left, but the Pack's go-to guy is now out. Marcellus Kemp just hit a wicked three-pointer, so look for him to take up the slack.

Fox is still giving the evil eye to the zebra over that one.

Should be interesting.

New Orleans: Overtime.

After missing on a pair of Nick Fazekas three-point attempts, long rebounds helped Nevada maintain possession of the ball with less than 30 seconds left in the game and still tied.

But a bad turnover gave CU a last chance. Then Nate Funk's attempt in the lane was knocked out on the way up with less than five seconds left. So we go to overtime now, tied at 59.

Ooh-wee!

New Orleans: Like Britney... this one's got drama

It's now Creighton 59-57 with three minutes left. Oh my! This is gonna be a white-knuckler.

Most telling stats so far:

Nevada: 8 blocks. CU: 1

Nevada: 17 turnovers. CU: 6

New Orleans: 13,323? That's it for attendance!

That's the official attendance for today's first session. If a politician was here, he'd say something crazy like, "You're doing a heckuva job, Brownie."

But the truth is this place has more open seats than a Milli Vanilli reunion tour. There are large sections of the third deck to this joint that have no one... not a soul sitting in it.

Not a good job New Orleans.

New Orleans: Fazekas' smarts puts UNR in the lead, then he dumbs the Pack back down

At the 9:38 mark, Nick Fazekas faked a shot, and got Anthony Tolliver uup in the air, then simply jumped into him and faked taking a shot. Boom! Foul No. 4 on Tolliver.

Fazekas makes all three free throws to put Nevada in the lead 50-49.

Smart play. Although I hate those kind of calls.

But then Fazekas gets a silly charging call on him (the Wolf Pack fans cried for an Emmy for Dane Watts of Creighton... maybe with some truth to that too.). Now Fazekas also has four fouls.

New Orleans: Fazekas has three fouls. CU takes advantage

Fazekas got a feather foul that shouldn't have been called two minutes into the second half. You could see UNR coach Mark Fox get a little curled by that one. CU immediately brought in backup center Manny Gakou to try to entice foul No. 4, but to no avail yet.

Anthony Tolliver is out of the game at the time, to protect his foul-likeliness. CU is up 41-37 at the 15:14 mark.

And let me just say, if that long-named Texas school beats Wisconsin, my bracket is screwed royally. Gah!

New Orleans: In the words of Stacy Hamilton from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"...

I'm going to get so fat working here!

Since I took a red-eye from L.A. last night, and I don't sleep on planes worth a damn, I've already had 2 Amp energy drinks, 2 Cokes and I'm relatively sure I'm going to devour some wicked Cajun food this weekend. Can't help it. I'm going to have to run for weeks to burn it off when I get home.

Oh, in the battle of the bands at halftime, Nevada's band played Billy Squier's "Rock Me Tonight" (a fairly obscure Squier song, but also one of his worst) and Creighton's band played Ozzy Osborne's "Crazy Train" Not bad.

Both need something a bit more modern, however.

New Orleans: Funk heats up. Adds Miles. CU up at half.

Nate Funk seems to have hit everything he's thrown up so far and Issac Miles knocked down a three to help stake CU to a five-point lead. But Nevada came back and Kyle Shiloh drained a bank-shot three (did he CALL that?) to make it a one point game, 32-31.

File this away, both big men, Anthony Tolliver of Creighton and Nick Fazekas of Nevada have two fouls going into halftime. Both need to stay foul-free at least until the 12 or 13 minute mark of the second half for their coaches to feel comfortable.

Oh, and both school mascots have got to be short girls that didn't quite make the cheerleader squad under those costume, because both look about 5-feet tall, like the rest of the cheerleader squad.

New Orleans: Two big developments

1- Anthony Tolliver of Creighton just picked up his second foul. Him getting in foul trouble will sink the Jays chances.

2- Nevada has already blocked four CU shots. When I saw Creighton play at Fresno State earlier this year, FSU got a handful of early blocks and the Bluejays went tentative the rest of the game, forsaking their inside game altogether.

It's now Nevada 23-20 at the 7:24 mark

New Orleans: Best part of press conference

Before I forget, John Calipari, in the Memphis post-game said that he's quit having his team shoot free throws in practice. He said, "Because we quit making them.. in practice and in the games. So now I just have them go home and visualize making 10 straight free throws."

When someone asked if their poor free throw shooting was a problem, Calipari said, "We're 31 and 3! It's not a concern of mine at all. Besides, when it gets down to the last four or five minutes, I believe we're a clutch team and we'll make our free throws."

New Orleans: Nevada-Creighton cranked up

It's early here. Both teams going inside to their big men early. Nick Fazekas and Anthony Tolliver should have a beauty of a battle.

Nate Funk has hit a few floaters against the Pack's best defender, Kyle Shiloh. That could be another huge matchup. It's now 13-10 Pack. 14:24 mark of the first half.

For what's it's worth, every one of the Creighton cheerleaders are very small and petitte and have their hair parted to the side with clips holding it down. Maybe I'll do that with mine too.

New Orleans: Ballgame...

Memphis wins comfortably in the end.

I'm going to see if there are any Calipari-Cheney-type moments in the post-game news conference.

New Orleans: UNT pulls within 9, but...

... I don't think they've got the legs to make this a game in the end. It's now 65-56, Memphis. But the Eagles look like they've used up a lot of energy trying to get back into this one. These boys look tired and on the reserve tank right now.

Joey Dorsey just wore three Eagles for a jersey on putting a layup in to extend the lead to 11. Free throw pending.

New Orleans: Allen leads Memphis surge

AllenShorts.jpg

I know these aren't the days of the NBA hot pants anymore, but Andre Allen has to have the longest pair of "shorts" in college basketball. Nice gauchos.

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Despite the lengthy togs, Memphis Guard Andre Allen has made a pair of steals, a coast-to-coast layup and an assist to a thunderous dunk on another breakaway. Then, just for good measure, he went over in from of the Memphis cheering section and started jump-starting the crowd too.

Memphis now up 53-40 with 10:47 left and a media timeout.

New Orleans: North Texas coach Johnny Jones can't dunk

When I was living in Baton Rouge eons ago, Johnny Jones signed to play basketball for LSU. In his personality bio, he wrote his most embarrassing moment was the time in high school when "he went up for a dunk in a game and slipped down to the floor"

Well in his four years at LSU I saw an endless number of their games and never, ever do I recall him coming close to a dunk. Even on breakaways it was always a weak layup. I'm willing to bet that Johnny can't dunk now either.

New Orleans: Apparently Verne Lundquist has no musical inclination

Before the start of the second half here, referee Reggie Greenwood was clapping along with the North Texas fight song and started pointing at Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery and said, "C'mon guys, you guys got rythym in you, don't you?"

Verne looked at Reggie and, shaking his head, shrugged his shoulders at the zebra.

But Raftery nodded "yes". Way to go Raft. "Send it in Jerome!"

New Orleans: Press giving North Texas fits. Memphis pumps up the D

For a team that just gave up an 9-0 run, UNT coach Johnny Jones doesn't look too concerned. His Mean Green has been hitting turnover city, throwing the ball away, traveling and getting the ball knocked out of their hands repeatedly of late. Memphis just got an alley-oop dunk from Robert Dozier to go up 37-28. Memphis fans are fired up and standing like a Texas A&M student section. UNT's players are tugging at their shorts at every stop in play.

UNT has abandoned their mantra of going inside and the Tiger full court press has made the big difference. At the halfway point, it's Memphis 37-28.

My seat in New Orleans

myNOseat.jpg

As you can see, I'm directly behind CBS announcers Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery.

Literally at mid-stripe. Not bad huh? I'm also got assigned a seat right next to Andy Katz of ESPN. I know, I'm spoiled.

Another thing about North Texas not being afraid of squat

Keith Wooden, the junior center for the Mean Green has repeatedly taken it uup strong against Joey Dorsey and the Tigers and gotten a few easy buckets.

At one point early in the game, Wooden went up strong, got the layup on Doresy and "barked" at him the whole time back down the court.

Wooden also just received a hard foul, got up shouting again and then sank two free throws. It's a donnybrook so far people. Memphis is now up 23-22 with 8 minutes remaining in the first half.

March 15, 2007

New Orleans preview (As Dennis Quaid once said, "It's the Big Easy, cher")

When CSTV asked me if I was interested in covering the New Orleans portion of the NCAA tournament, I immediately noticed that it collided with St. Patrick's Day and, well... "Hell yeah!" was my answer. And between you and me, I plan on "earning" my beads, man.

But my only hope is that I stay away from the green beer at the French Quarter long enough to offer up some solid insight and observations. (Not an easy task, is it?)

The New Orleans regional games are as follows:

Friday:
No. 2 Memphis vs. No. 15 North Texas
No. 7 Nevada vs. No. 10 Creighton
No. 8 Arizona vs. No. 9 Purdue
No. 1 Florida vs. No. 16 Jackson State

Sunday:
Memphis-North Texas winner vs. Nevada-Creighton winner
Arizona-Purdue winner vs. Florida-Jackson State winner

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Here's a quick look at each team:

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