March Madness Pittsburgh Style

Remember me?

You probably do. I used to post on this blog when I didn’t have 20 credit hours at school, a high school basketball to cover, a really good college basketball team to cover, and a part-time gig to get me some money so I can eat something more than the grass on my front lawn next year to worry about.

Lucky for you, my loyal readers, “The Quarter From Hell” is officially over which means more time to devote to content on here.

I begun Spring Break the way every good sports fan would by plopping in front of my television to watch 12 hours of college basketball per day with the beginning of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. This year, however, there was a twist.

My dad is a Duquesne Dukes season ticket holder. In exchange for having to watch the yearly torture that is Dukes Basketball (they have not played in the NCAA Tournament since 1977), he had the opportunity to buy tickets to the First and Second (I absolutely refuse to refer to them as Second and Third Rounds) Round games that were being hosted by the school.

I had never been to an NCAA Tournament game before Thursday, and I can’t recommend it enough. Me and my Dad arrived at the arena at 11:47 a.m. and with the exception of being booted out briefly between sessions, were there until 12:14 a.m. on Friday.

12 hours of live tournament basketball is a great experience. You get to see a lot of teams you’ve only seen on ESPN before, experience the quirky traditions of each school, and be a part of the emotion and fun that makes the tournament so great.

After the four games Thursday and two Saturday, I’ve decided on my “Pittsburgh Pod” awards. Please discuss snubs in the comments if you so desire.

Favorite Player To Watch- Jared Sullinger, Ohio State

Sully showed why he is such a fun player to watch in both games putting up big numbers and showcasing his talents on both ends of the floor. He has that LeBron James-type build to him at 6-foot-9, 280 pounds and has great inside and outside games. The kid is built to play in the NBA and was easily my favorite to watch over the weekend.

Honorable Mention: Scoop Jardin, Syracuse- Scoop did it all for the Orange in their win Saturday over K-State. He anchors the ‘Cuse fast break attack which have been a treat to watch all year.

Best Fans– Loyola (Md.) Greyhounds

They had to wait until 10 p.m. Thursday night to receive their drubbing at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes, but the Greyhound faithful relished being able to see their team in the tourney for the first time. They sold out their allotment of tickets and had a whole section in the upper deck full of students. Even though they were down big late, their enthusiasm never wavered. Props to you guys

Honorable Mention: Gonzaga Bulldogs- Any fan who travels well over 2,000 miles to see their team play will never be questioned by me.

Best Band- Kansas State Wildcats

I’m spoiled as an Ohio Bobcat fan to have the Marching 110 performing at every home game, however the band at K-State comes in not far behind. They definitely had the best song selection, and their unofficial fight song, “Wabash Cannonball”, whipped their fans into a frenzy. It was fun having them right by my section for both of their games.

Honorable Mention: Southern Mississippi Eagles- Since Southern Miss couldn’t bring many fans, their band did a good job filling the void.

Best Mascot- Otto the Orange, Syracuse University

Otto has always been my favorite mascot to play with on the Mascot Modes on the NCAA Football and March Madness games and the little ball of energy was definitely the best costumed character to grace CONSOL. Seriously, how can’t you like this little guy?

Honorable Mention: Brutus Buckeye, Ohio State Buckeyes

Best Villans– Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orange

Although not a single upset happened during the weekend, Syracuse became dangerously close to being the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed. Some bad calls went against UNC Asheville late, increasing the hate for Syracuse to face. They were booed every time the score was announced the rest of Thursday and through the game on that Saturday.

Best Celebrity Sighting– John Stockton

The legendary Jazz point guard was in town to watch his son play for Gonzaga. He was shown on the scoreboard during a time out and the place went nuts. I was desperately hoping he would break out a pair of the famed short shorts for a one-on-one game against Reggie Miller (who was broadcasting), however that was just a pipe dream

Honorable Mention: Bruce Hornsby- Not only is he a brilliant musician, but his son Keith plays for UNC-Asheville

Best Moment– UNC Asheville Tying Syracuse in the late stages.

So close yet so far. The crowd had slowly been building favor toward the Bulldogs all afternoon, and after Jeremy Atkinson tied the game at 54 with a little over 6 minutes to play, the crowd of 18,000-plus exploded. Chants of “Let’s Go Bulldogs” rang throughout the building as Syracuse called a quick time out after the fact. It was at that point everyone knew they were watching something special.

Honorable Mention: Guy Landry Edi’s dunk against West Virginia- Best dunk of the weekend that ended up being the nail in WVU’s coffin, allowing Gonzaga to advance.

Best Game– Gonzaga vs. Ohio State

Both sides came to play and there was plenty of good action. Sullinger and Thomas led the Buckeyes to a hard-earned victory. Nothing instant-classic worthy, but the crowd still got way more than their money’s worth.

Honorable Mention: UNC-Asheville vs. Syracuse- After working as a member of the media all basketball season, it was really nice to be a fan for a change for what was almost a historic game.

Even though the games made Pittsburgh “Chalk Town” rather than “Upset City”, it was still a blast to attend the games. Rumors are that Pittsburgh may even host a regional in a couple of years, something I fully endorse. I promise I’ll start posting on here more often and check back for a baseball preview soon.

And oh yeah, go Bobcats.

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Conference Realignment: Pitt, Syracuse to the ACC

The ticking time bomb that is college athletics came closer to a full explosion when it was announced that Pitt and Syracuse would be leaving the Big East for the ACC.

It was a surprising move, given that the brass at Pitt made it seem like the school would be reactive rather than proactive. I suppose that after the first domino fell (Texas A&M to the SEC) they felt the timing was right.

There are both pros and cons to the decision. Let’s take a look at them.

PROS

Chumps no more?

With the lack of depth that the Big East has for football, the program should get  a boost from making the jump to the ACC. There will be more money to be had from bowl games and good seasons will be rewarded with better than the Meinike Car Care Bowl.

ACC hoops, baby!

Although the Big East has cemented its place as a power in college basketball, the ACC should give the Panthers a chance to show their stuff against perennial powers such as Duke and North Carolina yearly. It will be very exciting to have those teams coming to Pittsburgh regularly.

Hello old friends

 

The move in the conference will also rekindle old rivalries with Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech who left the Big East in 2004 or 2005. Pitt had many great match ups with these teams in football in the late ’90s and early 2000s’. It could potentially wake up a very dormant fan base and get them out to Heinz Field for games.

CONS

They aren’t who we thought they were

Although the conference features Duke and UNC for basketball and Florida State and Virginia Tech for football, there is a lot of dead weight in the conference. Teams such as Wake Forrest, Georgia Tech, Virginia, and NC State to name a few struggle to compete consistently. The conference lacks depth, especially in basketball as the others just can’t keep up.

Still moves to be made

There are still many moves to come in conference realignment. Many schools have been rumored to move including some ACC ones. Once the dust settles, there is a chance that Pitt could still find themselves in an inferior conference compared to the rest of the country.

End of the Backyard Brawl?

Since Pitt has bolted, they will no longer have a mandatory game with West Virginia. Although it wouldn’t be tough to schedule the matchup out of conference in basketball, it may be a sticky situation for football. It is often the highlight of the season for both teams so the inability to play it every year will be a tad disappointing.

I can’t really come up with a final verdict on whether the move is good or bad since there is still so much that could happen with the rest of the conferences. Only time will tell. I still applaud the schools proactive approach to realignment as they are moving on their terms rather than doing so because they had to.