BASKETBALL: MARCH MADNESS 2018

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MARCH MADNESS 2018

Even though the eventual winner may not have been much of a surprise, (Villanova won each of its six games by at least a dozen points,) this was the best NCAA basketball tournament that I’ve ever seen.  And believe me, I’ve once again watched every second of it!

Sister Jean.  Look at that heavenly face.  I adore this picture!  Photo by Karen Salkin, as is the one at the top of this page.

Sister Jean. Look at that heavenly face. I adore this picture! Photo by Karen Salkin, as is the one at the top of this page.

I took a few notes along the way, all three weeks of it, and I’m happy to say that my very first one was, “Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt—Loyola-Chicago.” At their very first mention of her, I was all in. She was a star in my mind, so I’m thrilled that she became the biggest one of the tournament as it went on. I right away tweeted, “I sooo love that when Loyola-Chicago‘s Ramblers won today, instead of interviewing the coach, the sideline reporter interviewed Sister Jean, the team’s adorable 98-year-old chaplain!!!  Good call, TruTV!” (But you would know that if you were one of my thousands of Twitter followers! But you can still get in on the fun now; my “handle” there is @MajorCelebrity.)

The Champions filling in the last line of their bracket. Photo by Karen Salkin.

The Champions filling in the last line of their bracket. Photo by Karen Salkin.

Before I give you the rest of my general thoughts on the March Madness NCAA basketball tournament, let me say a major “Congratulations” to Villanova for their second Championship in three years! That’s some achievement, especially because the team had just a couple of returning players from their 2016 victory.

And also a very big “Congrats” to Michigan for making it into the Championship game. And to Kansas and the exciting #11 seeded Loyola-Chicago for making it into the coveted Final Four. Big props, all the way around.

Some clever person put Donte DiVincenzo's face (and a basketball) on the Rocky statue because both Villanova and Rocky are in Pennsylvania. Photo by Karen Salkin.

Some clever person put Donte DiVincenzo’s face (and a basketball) on the Rocky statue because both Villanova and Rocky are in Pennsylvania. Photo by Karen Salkin.

And even though Nova’s Donte DiVincenzo rightfully won the “MOP” (“Most Outstanding Player”) of the Championship game, for me, the more important MOP (which I’m using as “Most Outstanding Person,”) of the tournament is Michigan’s Mo Wagner.  I noticed that right after his team’s very first game, which they won, of course, (or they could not have progressed through the tourney to begin with—duh!,) Mo went over to console a couple of his Houston opponents, who were especially upset by their loss to Mo’s team.  I knew right away that he was a special kid. I can’t wait to see him in the NBA!!!

Outside of all that, this year’s March Madness featured the “maddest” thing ever in the many years of this tournament—a #16 seed finally beat a #1! For the first time in history!!! Unknown school UMBC beat the overall #1 seed, University of Virginia. And by 20 points!!! I feel bad for any sports fan who missed this historic event. I have watched every game of every NCAA Tournament for over two decades, and I was finally rewarded with witnessing a #16 seed beat a #1 seed! On top of that, UMBC was seeded 63rd out of 68 teams! And they beat the overall #1, not just one of the four #1 seeded teams!

These are some of the biggest upsets in history that now UMBC adds its name to! Photo by Karen Salkin.

These are some of the biggest upsets in history that now UMBC adds its name to! Photo by Karen Salkin.

I have to give major props to both coaches, the winning Ryan Odum and the very big loser, Tony Bennett, who were both so classy in their post-game demeanors. I’ll root for them both from here on out. (Unless one of them ever coaches the evil school across town from my beloved UCLA.)

I had no idea what UMBC stands for, (as I’m pretty sure no one else did, either,) but I believe the analyst who said it’s “U Must Be Cinderella!!!” The team, the Retrievers, got 4,000 more twitter followers overnight!  They went from 6,684 to 10.8k! Wow. [Note: It really stands for University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in case you’re curious.]

Before I get to some of my random thoughts on all the proceedings, I have to mention just a few of the many TV commentators, announcers, and analysts:

Charles Barkley getting his wish to meet Sister Jean. Photo by Karen Salkin.

Charles Barkley getting his wish to meet Sister Jean. Photo by Karen Salkin.

Charles Barkley has always been a man after my own heart, in so many ways. And now he said, (on why he doesn’t want to learn to do his own ties,) “I try to get other people to do as much for me as possible.” I hear ya, bro!

I really like Clark Kellogg. He always appreciates the somewhat competitive banter between Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith, but doesn’t get involved with it. Classy gentleman.

I was never a fan of Kenny Smith, but then I met him at an event in New York last year, along with his gorgeous wife, and they could not have been nicer. So I look at him through different eyes now.

I love sideline reporter Allie LaForce!  She’s adorable.  And she never tries to make her interviews about her.  All the guys she works with seem to adore her, as well, and I can understand why.  She’s who I’d like to be when I grow up.

Villanova Coach Jay Wright with Finals MOP Donte DiVincenzo.

Villanova Coach Jay Wright with Finals MOP Donte DiVincenzo.

Tracy Wolfson is also very good, and she always seems so happy to be speaking with the players and coaches (especially Villanova’s Jay Wright.)

But the absolute bravest sports floor reporter I’ve ever seen is Dana Jacobson. She had to interview Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton after his team’s loss to Michigan in the Elite Eight, and I’ve never seen a ruder interview-ee. He had basically given up even trying to win the game in the last minute or two, a decision that left just about every single viewer scratching his or her head. So, Dana asked him about that, and he stepped to her in what I considered to be a threatening manner, and she didn’t even flinch! He scared me, and I was on this side of the broadcast! He started to walk off the interview, but instead came back and got right in her face, challenging her rightful questions. He spoke to her very condescendingly, but that woman did not back down. I give her so much credit for hanging in there with that douchebag. And he’s the only person interviewed during this entire tournament who did not offer even a weak “thank you” at the end of it. I so hope that he’s drummed-out of the coaching biz.

Evil FSU Coach Leonard Hamilton in the middle, screaming at his player whose jersey he's still grabbing!  And the whole scene was so much worse than just this screen grab shows. Photo by Karen Salkin.

Evil FSU Coach Leonard Hamilton in the middle, screaming at his player whose jersey he’s still grabbing! And the whole scene was so much worse than just this screen grab shows. Photo by Karen Salkin.

I would have been terrified to talk to him, especially after seeing him grab one of his own players the week before, and throw him around! How has Florida State not fired him by now??? He should never be allowed to be near students, (or reporters!,) ever again!

Last thing about that situation, and the commentators’ reactions to it: The few analysts (like Greg Gumbel!,) who said that Hamilton “took a bullet for his kids” in that last non-play of that game should be ashamed of themselves. He definitely did not; they took one for him!!!  The FSU player was about to foul the opponent who had the ball, but he clearly heard a call from the bench, looked over, and then backed off. Which means that he was told to let it go by one of the coaches.  I hate that the TV panel made excuses for that creep of a coach!!!

Now here are just a few of my other thoughts on the entire tourney, in order of what I saw on TV:

Wichita State and Marshall played each other, and not one other person mentioned why that was significant. In 1970, both schools suffered horrible fatal plane crashes, within forty-three days of each other!!! What a sad thing to share. (Maybe that’s why no one mentioned it.)

Collin Sexton holding back coach Avery Johnson. Photo by Karen Salkin.

Collin Sexton holding back coach Avery Johnson. Photo by Karen Salkin.

I’ve never seen a kid push his college coach back to his seat so he doesn’t get in trouble, but Collin Sexton rightly did that to Alabama coach Avery Johnson. So, good for him!

I love that John Petty and Galin Smith of Alabama stayed after their big loss to watch Duke v. URI.  That’s true basketball men!

Some of these games have been dramatic!  None more so than Nevada’s win over #2 seed Cincinnati, after being down twenty-two points in that game!!! What a wild game!

I love this font! Photo by Karen Salkin.

I love this font! Photo by Karen Salkin.

I’m a big fan of the font of the numbers on Marshall’s uniforms.

I love that the Kansas State players, who were coming on to the floor to play their own game, went over to enthusiastically congratulate Clayton Custer of Loyola-Chicago on his team’s win in the Sweet 16, even though that’s who K-State would have to play if they won their game!!! [Note: They did wind-up playing each other in the Elite Eight, with the Retrievers of Loyola-Chicago coming out victorious.]

Lovely Mo Wagner (the tall guy) from Michigan congratulating opponent Jalen Brunson for beating him in the Final game! How nice is he???  Can you see why he's my MOP?! Photo by Karen Salkin.

Lovely Mo Wagner (the tall guy) from Michigan congratulating opponent Jalen Brunson for beating him in the Final game! How nice is he??? Can you see why he’s my MOP?! Photo by Karen Salkin.

How does Nevada play just six players???  What if more than one fouls out???  And can you replace both a center and a guard with the same player???  That’s just nutty.  And it makes way too much work for those six players, while making the other six feel sooo left-out!

Villanova’s Eric Paschall speaks so beautifully, with a gorgeous bass voice.  Whenever he stops playing, I hope he becomes a broadcaster.  (So I do hate to report him for this, but he did say, “That’s our motto: Villanova basketball till whenever.”  I seriously doubt that that’s their motto!)

And that’s it for my take on the 2018 NCAA March Madness basketball tournament! It was truly a wild ride this year, one that I’m glad I took all the way.

And major congrats to the Villanova Wildcats! You guys rock!

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