1. I'm the host for Sunday family dinner this weekend. I need to fix a meal that won't take a lot of time because at 3:00 Notre Dame and Baylor's women's basketball teams play for the national championship and I will be glued to the Vizio for this one. So, I spent some time today planning what I'll fix for dinner and thinking about how to organize my Sunday. I'm going to stay home and clean house, organize some papers, go to the store, get dinner prep done as much as I can, and watch the Fighting Irish and the Lady Bears, a game that promises to be fascinating and exciting given the two teams' contrasting playing styles and their gifted players.
By the way, speaking of women's basketball, many of us who are fans of the U of Oregon's women's team have wondered if Sabrina Ionescu would play her senior year at Oregon in 2019-20 or declare for the WNBA draft. Today, she published her decision. She's staying at Oregon. She wrote "A Letter to Ducks Nation" explaining why and if you'd like to read it, just click here.
2. I began watching numerous college basketball games in January, taking advantage of the many games available on my internet television service. I've always followed college basketball, but I've never in my whole life watched so many games in so many conferences, both men's and women's, as I have over the last three months.
It's been awesome.
So, this weekend both the men's and women's tournaments conclude and as every college basketball fan knows, these are the High Holy Days of the sport.
I'm all in. I am eager to see how it all plays out and who will be crowned champion of each tournament.
The excitement of Final Four weekend, though, is always tinged with disappointment that the season is ending and that we college basketball fans will have to wait until later this year to peruse our favorite teams' schedules, start watching games in November, and get absorbed in the beauty and bruising nature of women's and men's college basketball.
So, as I sat down to watch Virginia and Auburn play this afternoon's first semi-final, I wanted to stop time, go back to January, get back to the uncertainty and excitement of conference games and being able to watch multiple tilts, if I wanted to, starting in the late afternoon on weekdays and late in the morning on weekends.
But time, like March Madness, marches on and I snapped out of my reverie and got absorbed in Auburn and Virginia's magnificent game.
The Point Guard, fellow Kellogg Wildcat teammate, Roger Pearson, joined me via text messaging. So did Byrdman. So did Stu. All of us wondered how Virginia would slow down the firecracker offense of Auburn and whether Auburn could crack the pack line defense of Virginia.
In the closing minutes of the game, Auburn caught fire. Bryce Brown swished three straight three pointers. Virginia went cold and suffered from the impact of Ty Jerome going to bench with his fourth foul. Auburn vaulted into the lead, after being ten points down, and when Anfernee McLemore made two free throws with 17 seconds remaining, stretching Auburn's lead to 61-57, I was ready to enter into the seven stages of grief. I love Virginia's team.
But, then, eight seconds later, from deep, I mean Mariana Trench deep, in the corner, Kyle Guy rose up and drained a three point shot. Auburn's lead was a single point, 61-60.
Two seconds later, Kihei Clark fouled Auburn's sharp-shooting-thrives-on-pressure guard, Jared Harper. Harper made the first free throw and inexplicably missed the second.
Auburn 62. Virginia 61.
Auburn had fouls to give and disrupted Virgina's attempts to get to their half of the court and shoot a last second shot. The referees missed calling a Ty Jerome double dribble, another inexplicable occurrence. Bryce Brown fouled Jerome, Virginia called time out, and drew up a final inbounds play. Kyle Guy broke free, received the inbounds pass along the baseline just beyond the three point arc, rose up, released, and ---- missed the shot. Auburn rebounded the miss and the game was ov--, OMG!, not quite over. Auburn's Samir Doughty had jumped out to Kyle Guy to disrupt his shot and clipped Guy below the waist.
Doughty fouled Guy.
With sixth tenths of a second on the game clock, Kyle Guy drained the first two of his three free throws, tying the game.
Auburn called time out.
Kyle Guy didn't join his team's huddle. He stood alone, near Virginia's bench, composed himself, reminded himself that this was a moment he'd always dreamed of being in, and drew upon his history as a superb free throw shooter in order to build his confidence.
He returned to the charity stripe.
Auburn tried to get off one last shot from 90 feet away from their basket, failed, and Virginia escaped with a most improbable win, a miraculous win, in fact, their second miracle win in a row, having defeated Purdue last weekend in OT.
3. Michigan State grad, Shawn (the contractor) texted me during the Virginia game and invited me to join him and Teresa (and, as it turned out, Rod Plank) at the Dirty Dog Saloon (formerly Tony's Club and Dirty Ernie's) to watch Texas Tech and Michigan State.
Texas Tech's smothering, bruising, swarming defense had the Spartans on their heels for the entire game and the Red Raiders' Matt Mooney scored essential points with help from teammate Jarrett Culver and in as physical and rough a game as I've ever seen, Texas Tech defeated MSU, 61-51.
Right now, I don't quite know what or how to think about Virginia and Texas Tech playing on Monday night in the NCAA final. Both teams play rigorous defense. Both teams have experienced and mentally tough players. In this tournament, we've seen plenty of horse races between speedy teams who like to get up and down the floor, shoot early in the shot clock, and put up a lot of points.
We will not see a horse race on Monday. It will be more of a tortoise race. Both teams play a deliberate style on offense, rarely fast break, and are very disciplined. Both teams have two or three sharpshooters and neither team is prone to turning over the ball a lot.
I don't know what the championship game will come down to. Possibly it will be something mystical. With two miraculous wins in a row, Virginia seems to be a team of destiny, but does that really even exist?
After the Sparty/Red Raiders game, I went up the street to the Inland Lounge. I welcomed Eddie Joe back to the Silver Valley, glad to see he returned safely from his three month stay in Arizona, and I got to yak a lot with Cas as we discussed the ups and downs of our teams' performances in the Fantasy Baseball Leagues we belong to.