Bottom o' the evening to ya! Happy St. Patrick's Day and welcome to the WW March Madness liveblog. I'm Martin and I like beer better than basketball, but since WW basketball writer Casey Jarman is in Tejas, I'm writing about what are almost certainly the last meaningful basketball games this city will see in 2012 from the very worst seat on press row.
We had 10 hours of liveblogging fun on Thursday. Now I'm back for the second and final round of tourney games in Portland. There are just two games here today, as Virginia Commonwealth University faces the Indiana Hoosiers at 4:10 pm and the New Mexico University Lobos plays
Papa John's University and Pizzeria Louisville afterward. The winners will be in the Sweet Sixteen.
So, if you're just tuning in, here's a quick dossier on today's contestants:
4:14 PM: Indiana has the larger crowd (like Thursday, there are a lot of empty seats, even close to the court) and the first basket. VCU has two three-pointers and lots of swagger.
4:19 PM: When I say 'the worst seat on press row' I'm not being cute. The Oregon Daily Emerald--a student newspaper affiliated with a university which is not playing in this tournament--is one seat closer than I am... Indiana has been playing with a much taller lineup than it did Thursday. VCU's squad is on the short side so they seem to be looking for favorable match-ups. So far, so good for the Hoosiers. Indiana 13-VCU 8.
4:25 PM: Rams big man Juvonte Reddic just went up for an offensive rebound he expected to get. Two Hoosiers were way above him. These big, lanky Hoosiers just got beat on a fast break and can't keep up with the speedy VCU guards as they fly around the arc and pop in threes, however, which is how VCU is now ahead by five.
4:59 PM: The officials just spent about five minutes reviewing a flagrant foul call on Indiana. It was not a high-point of this St. Patrick's Day.
5:06 PM: Though they're up by only one point going in to the half, VCU has a huge advantage over Indiana in transition point. Also, with chants. They're like soccer fans. This page has a handy guide to the elaborate chants these VCU kids are doing, the most impressive of which is definitely the war song ("You don't want to go to war! With the RAAAAAAMS! Don't start no stuff, won't be no stuff!"). Thus far there has been a great deal of stuff, whether Indiana was wise to disregard the advice of the VCU band in this regard remains to be seen.
5:15 PM: The crowd groans every time the Gonzaga loss is announced. On Thursday, the Zags' win got the loudest cheers of any announced score. What gives? Am I missing something? A conservative college with an entitled attitude from a neighboring state is popular in Portland? Weird.
5:31 PM: Hoosier freshman Cody Zeller is having a rough start to the second half. He's been mugged twice on offense, once losing the ball and setting up another VCU fast-break. The game is tied at 48 and the tempo seems to have slowed a bit from the breakneck start of the second half. With 15:50 left on the clock, this looks like a good one.
5:34 PM: I hate these people.
5:40 PM: FACT: Referees are prohibited by NCAA rule 103.1 subsection D chapter IV from ever calling a travel on Indiana's Remy Abell.
5:44 PM: I have avoided commenting on this because I grew up in Ohio and perhaps have a bias against Hoosiers, but a nameless source who does not have any specific rooting interest but has been observing the Indiana band and student section just said, "Is it just me or are Indiana fans the most obnoxious people ever?"
6:06 PM: Up by five with just under four minutes left VCU is really taking their feet off the gas, playing a little Marty Ball and running down the shot-clock every possession. I'd say this is ill-advised, but I'm not one of the rising star coaches in college basketball.
6:14 PM: There are 46.5 seconds left and the game is tied at 61. Weeeeeee!
6:19 PM: Indiana wins after VCU kicks it out for a wide-open three which is missed. But you probably knew that already. What's up, Joseph Zucker?
6:21 PM: Best Indiana sign "Party like it's 1987."
6:24 PM: BEST MOMENT OF THE DAY: The scoreboard in the Rose Garden says "NMSTATE" which is funny because that team was eliminated Thursday. Rather, it should say "NMU," which is the team that is playing. The New Mexico
State band is chanting "FIX IT!" and pointing. A woman behind me is yelling "We're the Looobooooos!" They seem genuinely hurt. Welcome to the big leagues, kids.
6:50 PM: New Mexico's chant is "Everyone's a Lobo! WOOF WOOF WOOF!" There are several problems with this. First, saying "everyone" is "you" is lame. Why not aspire for a little exclusivity? Also, a Lobo is a wolf. Wolves do not bark, they howl. We miss you, Aggies.
7:13 PM: New Mexico has a three point lead with just under 8 minutes left in the first half. So far, not much notable has happened on the court. HOWEVER: Did you know that New Mexico has attempted to use a live wolf as a mascot several times only to have the creature nip people? I suspect it would be possible to sub out the real Mexican gray wolf for a regular ol' non-nipping Huskie without anyone being the wiser. (Neither would go "woof woof woof.")
7:39 PM: Thanks to some smart end-of-half play New Mexico is only down by one point headed into half-time. Louisville's star point guard Peyton Siva, a Seattle native, has been a major factor in the game but sat out the end of the half after picking up his second foul. The Cardinals run much more smoothly on both offense and defense when he's in the game.
7:44 PM: Louisville trying to curry favor with neutral Portlanders by playing "Louie Louie"?
8:06 PM: Portland is one of eight cities hosting NCAA tournament games this season (and possibly not benefiting from it). They all look pretty much the same on TV thanks to the NCAA's required black and blue paint scheme and the mish-mash of random fans you see everywhere other than the seats behind each team. So, yeah, there's not much local flavor, and the few hints of Portlandness seem to confuse the NCAA's imported personnel and the national media. The complex series of recycling bins, for example, is still giving people pause after five and a half games. I'm pretty sure I'm the only person on press row that commuted to the Rose Garden by bike. I was mistaken for "a worker" when I showed up to get my credential (and told to just walk right in) and have been incredulously asked "Did you bike here?" by at least two other people who spotted my Nutcase helmet. I think it'd be fun to see the host cities do a little more to make these events their own--and who knows, feeling a little ownership of the proceedings might help sell some of these empty seats to locals. What would that look like here? Hmmm.
8:10 PM: Two quick buckets and Louisville is up by 12. This could get ugly.
8:17 PM: The lead stands at 11 with 12:31 left in the game. Louisville just called a time out after New Mexico scored twice. What happens in the next 30 seconds could either make this a fun game to watch or a full-on beating.
8:21 PM: "Sweet Caroline." Ugh. Nine point game.
8:33 PM: New Mexico's Australian point guard Hugh Greenwood is enjoying his match-up with Siva. He seems to savor possession just a little when they're one-on-one and tries to stay on him defensively. The college game isn't really built for point guard face-offs, but when Greenwood can get Siva he takes him and uses the extra three inches of height to bully him as best he can. New Mexico is only down five with 6:20 left.
8:48 PM: Louisville 53, New Mexico 51 with 1:36 left after the Lobos forced a turnover on a five second violation and hit a huge three. Looks like another close one!
8:52: We're 2.9 seconds and three points away from the end of the last meaningful basketball game this town will see for the remainder of the year. Louisville would really have to screw up to lose this one, though.
8:56 PM: Welcome to the Sweet Sixteen, Louisville. If only New Mexico could have hit this shot.