Friday, March 22, 2013

Orange Crush

My fortune cookie's prediction on Wednesday night read, "You will enjoy doing something different this weekend."

Point Guard for the Orange

I certainly did just that with a trip down to San Jose for the early rounds of March Madness. The HP Pavilion was hosting teams from the Midwest and East regions (I know that sounds weird). Those in attendance for the first session were treated to match-ups in the Midwest region, where the Billikens of St. Louis defeated New Mexico State. The second game of the day had a Pac 12 flavor with the Oregon Ducks beating Oklahoma State in a deadly 12 vs. 5. The Ducks might just be the best 12 seed in the field. I initially thought their seed was justified. However, after their win I am persuaded to think they may have deserved a higher seed. St. Louis and Oregon will meet on Saturday in the round of 32. The Billikens are a great mid-major team, with gobs of potential. That being said, GO DUCKS! My brethren from Eugene successfully converted me in college to adopt the U of O.

The second session kicked off with a 'neutral' site game for the Cal Bears as they faced the Running Rebels of UNLV. I expected the Rebels to showcase the up-and-coming surge the Mountain West had been showcasing. This game had lots of thrills, and of course a rowdy atmosphere due to the dearth of Golden Bear fans in attendance. The Bears came away with the win in what was a sloppy final two minutes of the game. There were far too many rushed possessions with poor shot selection and a couple of inexcusable turnovers. The most frustrating part, and perhaps most exciting, was the amount of free throws that were missed down the stretch. Cal could've put them away and the Aggies could have actually pulled within one and/or tied had they hit more from the charity stripe. All in all it was a lively atmosphere and the Cal crowd went home happy.

Mascot Madness
The final game of the day was a big reason we made the drive south. The Orange of Syracuse were pitted against the Grizzlies of Montana. I have nothing against the state of Montana or its campus. I actually love both. But the Orange are one of my longtime teams. We were there to root for 'Cuse. It was made evident pretty early-on that this was a statement game for Syracuse. As a hoops fan, they were so fun to watch. They are incredibly active on both ends of the court. Not only did they hustle and challenge shots, they made it incredibly tough for the Griz to get good looks, either by deflecting passes or running people off of their initial look. It was a complete joy to watch Brandon Triche's feet in action. Simply put, the 'Cuse zone defense smothered Montana. On the offensive end, they played within their sets and seemed to be totally cohesive and, for the most part, patient. They were so unselfish in their ability to get a better shot or an easier shot. Michael Carter-Williams was just surveying the floor and served up some tasty dimes resulting in short corner jumpers, corner and wing threes and of course, inside buckets and highlight lobs. Next up for the Orange will be Cal. In what is sure to be another 'home' game for the Bears, I expect Syracuse to build upon their impressive performance against the Grizzlies. The pace and intensity of Syracuse was leaps and bounds above everyone else. In what has become the final year for the Big East as we knew it, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if Jim Boeheim's squad made a deep run. After all, Syracuse, as well as most Big East teams, pride themselves on winning the single elimination games that only a tournament can afford.

75 years of Madness

It was a great day of college hoops and it should be noted that the HP Pavilion is a great site to watch a basketball game. It was probably one of the better arenas I have been privileged enough to experience. Also, the scalpers in San Jose are the best I have ever encountered. Not only are they easy going and organized, they're willing to hear you out and make a great offer. We scored two lower level tickets, twenty rows off the floor for half price. Thanks to the guys who hooked us up. Nothing better than celebrating 75 years of college madness in sunny California. If you're able to explore the city of San Jose, check out Barefoot Coffee and the Black Cat Collective Vintage Emporium. Both local establishments made me want their creativity and initiative to rub off in the north bay.


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