Florida Gulf Coast and Wichita State coast in Dayton


“Madness” by Lucius
Released March 11, 2016 via the Mom/Pop record label.

Very little to report as far as the competitive nature of the first set of preliminary games to kick off the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

But while my hometown was getting thunder and lightning, I was able to listen to some of the Westwood One radio calls and it was very evident which teams were really prepared–and which ones were basically as the old cliche goes–just happy to be there.

No Gulf City Part II, but the result was still impressive nonetheless

Florida Gulf Coast looked at time like UNLV in 1990, always run until there’s no tomorrow.  By the time the first set of TV time outs took place, the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights did not know what hit them.

The final score was FGCU 96, Fairleigh Dickinson 65 and it wasn’t even close.  The 31 point margin of victory came close to the first ever extra game in 2001 when Northwestern State took on Winthrop on the former TNN cable channel (later rebranded as Spike). Winthrop’s coach in 2001, you guessed it–would later take over at Wichita State.

And I can safely predict that Florida Gulf Coast will be handed them a major lesson against the top seed in the East in North Carolina.  I expect the Tar Heels will win by at least 40 points–so please go ahead and mark it down.

Wichita State back where they belong, break open close game late

For Wichita State Head Coach Gregg Marshall, he has called his four seniors in Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet as, “college basketball icons.”  To me, icons is an often overstretched word which usually would be better for talking about players that have graduated 10, 15, 20, 25 years down the road.  Their record in the last four years is an astonishing 119-23.  Ponder that for a moment as I briefly reflect on how rare college players stay for all four years in their time getting an education and hoping to become productive and quality young men in this complex journey called life.

Back in the era when players stayed all four years and earned their degrees on time, the likes of Clyde “The Glide” Drexler of Houston, Ralph Sampson of Virginia, Patrick Ewing of Georgetown were a rare breed during the early to mid 1980’s.  Many other players did similar things by staying in school all four years before jumping to the NBA or other endeavors.

As I said in a past blog, money talks.  And today’s players often follow the moniker mentioned very emphatically in the 1996 movie, Jerry McGuire.  “Show me the money” does have a lot of power in today’s society, isn’t that the truth?

Back to the game recap before this virtual train may end up sliding off the muddy tracks…

Vanderbilt held their own in the first half and Wichita State led by a precocious 50-48 score with 8:58 left to play.  But thanks to some really stingy defense and hot three point shooting from the aforementioned Baker and VanVleet, both Missouri Valley greats finished with 14 points each.  A 13 point run to start the second half was only a harbinger of things to come.  What really impressed me was how the Shockers ended the game on a 20-2 run, never letting the Commodores come close to advancing to Providence on Thursday against a talent laden Arizona team.

But I was also struck by what Ron Baker said in two separate interviews after the game.  Immediately after the game on Westwood One, this is what he felt was the difference in the wider margin of victory,

“One key for us was getting them off the free throw line.”

Nearly 90 minutes later, he spoke by phone to Freddie Coleman and Ian Fitzsimmons on ESPN Radio and had these thoughts about how these last four years have flown by in the blink of an eye:

“Being in the tournament is special.  We just want to have fun out there.”

This is what this time of year is supposed to be about.

Their next opponent will be the 6 seed in Arizona.  For many years, the Wildcats I have felt have been a true “Jekyll and Hyde” team in every sense of the word.

One year, they can be very, very good like in 1997 when they stunned a talented Kentucky team in overtime to win the national title.  Or, they can be really bad–losing to a little guy named Steve Nash when he starred for Santa Clara in 1993 at Salt Lake City in the first round as a 2 seed.  Another time was in 2005 when the Wildcats had their way for 34 minutes before blowing a 15 point lead in eventually succumbing to the “Orange Crush” in overtime and that tidal wave of Illinois fans in Rosemont at the 2005 Midwest Regional final.

Next time you look at the lyrics to the 1987 tune by Dave Barrett in “One Shining Moment”, pay close attention to the middle verses.  They were relevant back in the day and are still relevant even today.

One final thought about the use of the new CBS Sports graphics

I was very surprised that TruTV and the other two Turner outlets will be using the new CBS Sports graphics which debuted on the day of Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California.  The numbers at least were visible, but my only bigger concern is the schools with very light school colors such as Purdue and Cal–their yellow might be a little too difficult to read.   Also, the respective station logos will be in the bottom middle of the screen–but it will be interesting to see how we get our updates starting on Thursday afternoon.

A brief recap of the Holy Cross/Southern and Michigan/Tulsa games will appear here later tonight.  Please enjoy your day and thanks for your online support.


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