Observations from Day 1 in Portland: I hate the NCAA, and Gonzaga better watch out

Hey everyone! I'm in the car on the way back from Portland and able to write for the first time all day thanks to the ridiculous NCAA and its archaic rules (more on that in a sec). Boy, I love my dad's MacBook and Verizon card.

Anyway, today was a great day -- how can it not be when I just got done more or less watching live basketball from 11 a.m. until 9:30 p.m.?

But it wasn't perfect, as only the NCAA could figure out a way to screw up something so wonderful.

I actually had planned to be on the site periodically throughout the day, as my dad brought his computer to the arena and I brought mine. We were going to watch games on our laptops and track the action.

Upon getting our bags searched, we were informed that we could not bring computers in. I objected, telling them I had looked it up on the Rose Garden web site, and assured them there was no such provision. They said it was an NCAA rule that only working media with press credentials could have computers. I have no idea why, but whatever the reason is, I openly wondered aloud why this would be the case when probably 10,000 or so of the people in the arena would have web access on their phone. So, that's why I was absent.

Another wonderful thing the NCAA did today was schedule about a 25 minute break between Session 1 and Session 2. If you're not familiar with how these days work, they actually have to clear the arena in between the first two games and the second two games. Presumably because of television obligations, the Washington game started around 2 p.m., and the Gonzaga game was scheduled for 4:25 p.m. That meant that 20,000 people had to get out -- and back in -- from the time the Huskies finished until tipoff.

We missed the last five minutes of the Washington game so that we could be sure to get back in for the start of the GU game. Not all were so fortunate. I don't know if you could see on TV, but the place was only about 1/3 full at tipoff. It took until about 10 minutes into the game for the arena to fill.

So, thanks again, NCAA, for being the most ridiculous contridiction in all of sports. You want a fan-friendly experience, but only if it doesn't interfere with television. You advertised for March Madness On Demand, yet you wouldn't let me bring my computer in so I could use it. Screw you, NCAA.

On the bright side, I got to see some decent basketball today, even if it was disappointing that I had to watch Washington and Gonzaga again. One of the great things about these regionals is that you usually get to see teams you haven't seen before. Not so much today. Still, here are some of my observations:

  • Saturday ought to feature a pair of highly, highly entertaining games. Purdue and Washington are both teams that love to crash the offensive glass and get out and run when they can, while Gonzaga and Western Kentucky both are going to push the tempo as much as possible. I'm looking forward to it.
  • Not impressed with Purdue at all. The Boilermakers should feel darn fortunate that Northern Iowa was nervous as all get out at the start of the game. Purdue was uninspired for the most part, and a more composed midmajor likely would have disposed of them this morning.
  • Washington didn't play their best game, but lucky for them Mississippi State sucks. They did enough, but I worry about how deep they can go without Isaiah Thomas playing well. It's been quite a while.
  • By the way, what is it with Washington fans and their obsession with us? I saw another Coug fan there, gave him a "Go Cougs!" in the concourse, and a Husky turned around and said, "Your team played two nights ago, and LOST! So take that!" And I'm thinking to myself, "Really? Can't you just focus on your own team? I really wasn't talking to you." Of course, being the non-witty guy I am, I fired back, "Oh yeah? Well after today, we'll still have more NCAA Tournament wins than you in the last three years." To which he replied, "Not after today you won't!" I then made some remark about him probalby not being a math major, if he went to Washington at all.
  • If you have not watched that pick that was set on Venoy Overton, watch it. Then, watch it again. Then, watch it again. And smile EVERY TIME. If I can find it on YouTube somewhere, I'll post it. If someone else finds it somewhere and puts it in a FanShot, I'll promote it. But I want to relive that moment over and over and over.
  • Did I mention how ridiculous it is to try and clear an arena of 20,000 people and try to get them back in within 25 minutes?
  • I'm regretting picking Gonzaga to the Final Four. I thought the bracket shaped up nicely for them, because I think UNC is going to get upset at some point along the line, but today shocked me.
  • I've come to the conclusion that the reason Mark Few's name never is connected to openings anymore is not because people have given up hope he'll ever leave Spokane; it's because people have realized he's just not that good of a coach. I cannot believe what I see when I watch Gonzaga -- lazy, lazy defense and undisciplined offense. And the fact that the Bulldogs aren't better with that collection of talent -- which isn't on that top shelf with UNC, UConn and Pitt, but is most certainly just a notch below -- falls directly on the coach. And going to a 2-3 zone not once, but twice, against a team that killed you early from 3 to stay in the game? Nice recruiter, bad coach.
  • I suppose one of the things that happens when you're a Coug fan is that you get an appreciation for good, sound defense. Gonzaga is neither good, nor sound, on defense, and when you know what you're watching, it's almost shocking. Akron was able to penetrate at will, and there was absolutely no help defense. Josh Heytvelt is an absolute statue in the defensive post, and virtually everyone other than Matt Bouldin was driven on at will.

    This will be their downfall -- they simply are not good enough to just outscore everybody the way they did in the last 10 minutes today. But I suppose this is what happens when you don't have to play anywhere near your best for two months to win games.
  • I think most of you got the UCLA game, so you probably didn't see this, but Western Kentucky looked really good. This was the one of my three upsets that actually panned out, and it was the one I was most sure of. Illinois is just really soft in the middle, and is precisely the kind of team that can be beat by a good midmajor.
  • I don't put a lot of stock in Illinois' late rally; WKU looked like they had started to coast a little too early, and it bit them a little bit. The real Hilltoppers showed up for the first 37 minutes of that game.
  • Gonzaga better be very, very careful on Saturday with WKU. If the Zags allowed an absurd amount of dribble penetration to Akron, how much mroe will they allow to WKU's cat-quick guards? Not only that, but Western Kentucky wanted that game a heck of a lot more than Illinois did, and you can bet they're going to come out trying to hit Gonzaga in the mouth. The Zags better be ready, or it will be another year without a Sweet 16 for the Bulldogs.

That's it for now. I'll try to do the same after Saturday's games. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to just watching some games on TV tomorrow and chatting it up here.

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