To some, pondering a two day span that would include 24 hours of basketball, 2 cases of Miller Lite, enough Twisted Tea to make you diabetic, and under 12 total hours of sleep is a scary proposition. To me, that sounds like a perfect weekend. So when a friend and I realized our spring breaks matched up with each other and opening weekend, we knew we had to pounce on the opportunity. Planning began. We had big dreams. NASA big. We had dreams of a bunker with a couch for two and a mini fridge with enough beer for way more than two. So we listened to Shia. We didn’t let our dreams be dreams.
After weeks of anticipation, the day finally came. I set my alarm for 11.30 so I wouldn’t miss a thing. I packed a bag with a tooth brush that I knew I probably wouldn’t use and some clean underwear. The bunker awaited me. There was basketball to watch and beer to consume. I hadn’t been this excited since the last time I was in Disney World. My buddy had some dumb real world responsibilities for the first half of the day, but once five o’clock hit, we were in business. In fifteen minutes, all of my basketball hopes and dreams would be reaching their annual fulfillment. The best thing about good friends is it doesn’t matter what we’ve done for the last three months. Should we catch up? Of course, but there will be more time for that. Right now is for basketball.
As I settle into the couch, I am introduced to the Xfinity X1 voice remote. In no way am I a technology expert. I frequently forget my passwords and my phone is broken 70% of the time. I’m pretty sure I have some setting wrong because my phone is never above 75% power. With that in mind, a TV remote that just needs a button press and a careless whisper of “CBS” into its mechanisms might as well be a flying car to me. This is the improvement to March Madness we have been looking for. Believe it or not, it wasn’t perfect, but now it is. I don’t have to look in the depths of television archives to figure out what TruTV is. I don’t have to ever utilize my “last” button ever again. By this point I am reaching lazy basketball fan euphoria.
There is a weird feeling about the games today, though. Before I arrived, none of the games were very exciting, and throughout the day that theme remains. Bucknell hung around with West Virginia, but it never seemed close. UNC Wilmington drew the only team in the country that they wouldn’t beat in the round of 64. Also, the Seahawks decided that once they were up 15, it was a good idea to stop running coherent offense. Middle Tennessee won, but that wasn’t an upset because Vegas said so (also because Minnesota was bad this year). The game of the day was probably Northwestern and Vanderbilt, but that’s a game that doesn’t matter at all. Gonzaga will beat either of those teams handily because neither of them are really that good. Princeton and Notre Dame was just annoying all around. There is a problem with day one when the main thought of ours is “wow these teams really aren’t very good at basketball,” instead of “Wow what a good basketball game.”
But the beers are flowing. The collections of empties on our side tables are growing at exponential rates. Everything is entertaining at this point. No matter how bad the game is, every once in a while Allie LaForce will still be doing something on the sideline. What that thing is does not matter. If it was her eating buffalo wings, we would still watch, and it would still reignite the conversation of how perfect she is in every way. No matter what happens, we’ll still get to see Giddy Potts do what he does for Middle Tennessee. When the kid on Vanderbilt fouls even though he is up one, we will still laugh. Throughout the Wisconsin game as everyone still decides to both overrate Wisconsin and underrate their second round opponent Villanova, we will continue to laugh. Still, as a whole, Day 1 of the weekend isn’t joyous because of basketball, but joyous because of Miller Lite and friendship.
At 11.30 on Saturday morning, the alarm again digs into our brains like a screwdriver. We open our eyes, establish where we are because we forget for a moment, and rise to face another day of hurting our eyes and our livers. We check the fridge to establish where we stand and somehow there are 3 beers and 4 teas left. The odd number is confusing, but the complete dearth of beer remaining in general is somewhat alarming. Oh well, case two inbound. Throw another friend into the mix and we are in for a hell of a day. All of our brackets are still almost entirely intact, so we know we weren’t overreacting to the shit-levels from day 1. It was underwhelming. Starting with game one today, though, we realize that we are in for a treat. This may be a hot take, but I think Michigan and Oklahoma State will turn out to be the game of the tournament. Guard play rules in March, and Juwan Evans against Derrick Walton Jr. was easily the best guard matchup I have watched all year. They both showed up to play at levels I was unaware were possible for guys not named Kemba Walker. Next we got Seton Hall and Arkansas, which could have had a fantastic buzzer beater from Seton Hall guard Khadeen Carrington if the refs were ok with an outcome like that. Unfortunately, they made the worst call in the history of basketball. My buddy and I both have a feeling that we lost a pet or that one stuffed animal everyone has that they needed to sleep until they were 6. We drunkenly scream at the TV for fifteen or twenty minutes and then get tired so we flip to a new game.
Still, the rest of the day only produces maybe one other top-level game. Wichita State beat Dayton in the battle of perennial Cinderellas. But, life still provides the positives we were hoping basketball would give us. My buddy’s dad gives us a glass of scotch whiskey that is easily the best liquor I will ever drink. Every sip I feel guilty. But I savor the glass so I can have a break from the piss water that is cheap beer. Without the bunker, this could have been an underwhelming opening weekend. All ended well, though.
Luckily, now it is the Round of 32. This is when games are fantastic. There may not be the upsets the average viewer wants to see so badly, but there are fantastic matchups. Nova gets their first challenge. Notre Dame and West Virginia clash in a battle of contrasting styles. Iowa State and Purdue will be high-level basketball. So basketball gods, I have given you my offering of an entire day of my life as sacrifice. All I ask for in return is good basketball. Amen.