Thursday was a big basketball night. Here’s how it looked from my La-Z-Boy.
7:04 p.m.: Tuning into Channel 8 for Notre Dame-Wichita State, one of four NCAA Sweet 16 matchups on the night. Strangely, “Inside Edition” is on. Oops, CBS is now Channel 4. Still haven’t gotten that down pat.
7:09 p.m.: “The wolf doesn’t care about the opinion of the sheep,” a quote attributed, said studio host Ernie Johnson, to Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall. Not sure what it means, but I like it.
7:11 p.m.: TBS studio guest Ron Hunter, currently coach at Georgia State and formerly at IUPUI, reminded me of New Palestine wrestling coach Chad Red last week when Hunter, hobbled by an Achilles injury, fell off his sideline stool. Red, ever passionate, did the same thing at a meet a few years ago, so excited during the match that he tumbled out of his chair.
7:15 p.m.: Marshall, play-by-play man Marv Albert tells us at tip-off, is on record as saying he will listen to offers from other schools. Unheard of for a coach to give that honest of a public answer.
7:19 p.m.: Back on TBS prepping for Wisconsin-North Carolina, Seth Davis is annoying. That is all.
7:48 p.m.: Kevin Harlan notes that the Tar Heels beat Harvard and Arkansas to reach the Sweet 16. Not impressed. Prediction: Wisconsin blowout.
8:04 p.m.: Notre Dame leads the Shockers 33-30 at the half. But, in Wichita State’s tourney-opener against Indiana, it wasn’t until the midway point that it started to control the Hoosiers. Speaking of IU, I’ve long been an apologist of Hoosiers coach Tom Crean, mostly because he can recruit. But, he hasn’t done much with all the talent. If his job doesn’t already depend on reaching at least the Sweet 16 next season, it should.
8:16 p.m.: A trip to the mailbox produces the Sports Illustrated 2015 MLB Preview. Who says print media is dead? (Actually, the subscription is a long-running Christmas gift from the parents). SI rightfully takes Cincy to task for letting solid No. 2 starter Mat Latos go and using the money to sign an aged Marlon Byrd, frighteningly pegged as the Reds’ cleanup hitter. Cincinnati’s other issue, it seems to me, is clubhouse poison Brandon Phillips.
8:39 p.m.: North Carolina is ahead of Wisconsin at halftime, 33-31. Must fight urge to delete the 7:48 p.m. entry. The late games tonight are Kentucky-West Virginia and Arizona-Xavier. I was all set to make a John Calipari/Bob Huggins graduation rate joke here, but according to a few Internet sources, Huggins’ Mountaineers rank 12th and Calipari’s Wildcats 22nd out of all NCAA tourney teams in academic success, when players in good academic standing turning pro or transferring are not included. Maybe Huggins has changed his ways since the days of the Cincinnati Bearcats’ annual 0 percent graduation rates.
9:12 p.m.: Notre Dame up big, 78-65, on Wichita State with less than one minute to go. Alabama, once rumored to be going after the beleaguered Crean, is probably meeting with Marshall by the time you read this.
9:44 p.m.: We’ve got a dandy from Los Angeles, where Bo Ryan, Frank Kaminsky and Wisconsin lead Roy Williams’ Tar Heels 71-70 with 54.1 seconds remaining.
9:52 p.m.: The final 54.1 seconds weren’t quite as exciting. The Badgers close it out at the free-throw line and do the Big Ten — and an on-hand Aaron Rodgers — proud in advancing to the Elite Eight.
10:06 p.m.: As apparently required by law, the cameras focus on UK fan Ashley Judd at Quickens Loan Arena in Cleveland jumping up and down like a crazy person as her Wildcats take an 18-2 lead on West Virginia. According to her IMDb page, Judd was named after Ashland, Kentucky, is an eighth-generation Kentuckian and once went an unspecified amount of time without showering because she felt it would jinx the basketball team. No. 1. Why not go all the way and use the name Ashland? No. 2. Who the heck traces their lineage back that far? No. 3. That could just be a Kentucky thing.
10:30 p.m.: Kentucky is up 33-11 late in the first half. Watching this, it’s easy to see how Steve Alford’s UCLA squad trailed the Wildcats 41-7 at the break in a regular-season game this year. According to Alford’s IMDb page (he’s appeared in two ESPN productions):
“Though his Indiana University coach, Bobby Knight, often criticized Alford’s defense, Alford set a National Invitation Tournament record with eight steals in a game against Butler University in 1985.”
“During his career at IU, his hair was often motionless even during games. This led to accusations that he wore hair spray, which he denied.”
Back in the ’80s, when I still had hair, I had the same ’do as my fellow New Castle native. And, unlike Steve, I’m not ashamed to say I definitely went through some hair product.
10:58 p.m.: In a nice moment, former North Carolina guard and studio broadcaster Kenny Smith remarks on coach Dean Smith’s bequeathing $200 in his will to each of his past lettermen: “We always said coach Smith was ahead of his time, and he still, in passing away, is ahead of his time.” In a letter accompanying the checks, Smith told his former players to go out and enjoy a nice meal with loved ones.
12:17 a.m.: Officially into Friday and we’re still playing basketball, with Xavier leading Arizona 53-51 at the 6:18 mark of the second half. The action is going on as long as an MLB playoff game. The only thing missing are the closeups of CC Sabathia’s nose hair.
12:49 a.m.: Nearly six hours. Four games. Four winners (Arizona, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Notre Dame). And one trusty La-Z-Boy putting in one more day of comfort duty.