Thursday, March 16, 2006

Dallas, Day 1

I'm writing this from my room in the Renaissance Hotel in Dallas. It's pretty nice, actually. I slept like a baby last night.

Nothing of import to report from the long car trip from Memphis to Dallas, other than a couple minor points:

1. If you need to fill your car up with gas, do so before you hit I-30 West in North Texas. Apparently the word has not gotten to them that Texas is an oil state, and gas really ought to be available more often than once every 40 miles or so. You know the meter in your car that counts down the miles left before you run out of gas? My meter was showing this: ---- and blinking over and over. Not good. Fortunately, I managed to find an Exxon before I broke down in Whogivesacrap, Texas.

2. I hate traffic. In particular, I hate when two 18-wheelers decide that they absolutely have to drive side by side on a two lane interstate highway for tens of miles, blocking traffic along the way, at a robust 5 miles below the speed limit. If you're going to pass, pass. If you're not, get back in the right lane. Sorry. Just got a little frustrated there. I'm working on dealing with my road rage problem.

One interesting thing I immediately noticed: the NCAA Tournament doesn't seem to be much of a big deal here in Dallas at all. It was not a topic on the sports radio station I listened to on the way into the Metroplex (1310 the Ticket -- excellent station), and none of the locals appear to be enamored with it at all. I suppose since the local teams are SMU and TCU, college basketball isn't exactly topic numero uno on the minds of your average Dallas sports fan. For what it's worth, the big topic of the day was T.O. potentially signing with the Cowboys. Most are in favor of it. I am not. But we'll save that for later.

I ate at some steakhouse (there are a lot of them -- ask George for more details) about 10 minutes from my hotel last night with the Fox 13 crew -- always nice to get WHBQ-AM and WHBQ-TV together. I gotta tell you -- the sirloin was so smoked, I thought the cow had been in a forest fire. I'm all about some smoky flavor, but I also like a little, you know, meat flavor in my meat. Not the best meal. Good atmosphere, though.

After the show this morning, I -- Quick note -- I'm watching the Alabama/Marquette game as I type this. The TV has frozen with :54.6 left in the game, and Bama up 2. It's not coming back. I may throw it out the window. Must. Not. Destroy. Room. Heh -- they've just put up a screen saying, "No need to call us. We are aware this TV station is having problems." Apparently I'm not the only one that noticed the problem RIGHT AT THE END OF A GREAT NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME.

OK, the Bama/Marquette game is apparently over now. Still no TV. Bama won. Good. I need someone on my bracket to win for once. If BC had lost to Pacific, it would have marked the fastest bracket disaster in my personal history. I knew I shouldn't have put an Al Skinner team in the Final Four.

Let me try again...after the show this morning, I went over to American Airlines Center for some press conferences and the University of Memphis open practice. Some impressions:

Oral Roberts press conference: The ORU players really appeared relaxed and, dare I say, confident. Caleb Green, their interior presence, is an awfully tough customer and is a much more talented player than you would expect to see on a #16-seeded team. They said everything you would expect them to say. Coach Scott Sutton was a genial, friendly guy who spoke at length about his experiences at his dad's side during Arkansas' previous NCAA Tournament runs. He did mention that he had talked to his dad recently, and that he is feeling much better after recent back surgery. He added that he considered Rodney Carney to be the best pure athlete in college basketball. Scott Sutton said he expected the Razorback fans in attendance to stay after their game and support the Golden Eagles. I imagine they will. They would support almost anyone instead of John Calipari and Memphis.

Memphis press conference: Let's get it out of the way -- in the least shocking thing of the year, someone asked Darius Washington about missing the free throws last year against Louisville. Wow. Original question there, pal. Darius was joined by a very eloquent Rodney Carney, who talked at length about not having been heavily recruited and about the lack of respect shown nationally to the Tigers. Both Rodney and Darius said that the simplest way to earn respect was to keep winning -- and both took great pains to describe the respect they have for Oral Roberts. John Calipari then entered and talked about this team's desire to win and the fact that the youth of this team might not be a disadvantage, since they "don't know what it's like to lose". Cal, Carney, and Darius talked at length about the fact that Conference USA is much harder than people think (what else would they say?), and that they feel adequately prepared for tomorrow's game (and beyond).

Arkansas press conference: Jonathon Modica and Ronnie Brewer represented the players -- they seemed thrilled to be there. They talked about the loyalty of the fans, and Ronnie mentioned how badly he wanted to pay the senior players of Arkansas back for what they had done for him; he felt good about bringing good feelings to the Arkansas fans. Modica compared Arkansas fans to, yes, pit bulls. Why? "They're loyal, but sometimes they can get a little fierce." Interesting. They both want desperately to win for Stan Heath, who Brewer talked about as a really good, inspiring coach.

Here are my predictions for tomorrow:

Memphis 92, Oral Roberts 67
Bucknell 59, Arkansas 55
Texas 79, Penn 59
California 78, N.C. State 69


--How about that shot by Chris Lofton to give Tennessee the win? I guess conventional wisdom was dead on about Winthrop. The Vols got lucky -- they probably should have lost.

--The "Express Checkout" Award goes to Seton Hall. Wow. Thanks for showing up. Guess Cincinnati should have been the 8th Big East team in.

--I wish Memphis had a Whataburger. Best fast food burger out there.


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