NCAA Tournament First and Second Round Ramblings
Well, I'm back from my weekend in Indianapolis (actually, we got back late Sunday, but I've been playing catch-up with other commitments since returning). Figured I'd give everyone a rundown of my experience up there.
I live 2-2.5 hours Southwest of Indy. My dad and I drove up on Friday morning and arrived at Bankers Life Fieldhouse around 11:30. I lucked out and found a nice guy named Brian (not that Brian) on MGoBlog that had a couple of extra tickets for face value to the first session. So, we met up with him to get our tickets and went in.
The seats were good (Section 19 - the first row of the upper level), but we ended up closer to the Cowboys bench. There's really not a bad seat in the place, from what I could tell. Actually, we ended up being pictured in the background of the lead photo of the MGoBlog game recap post...
Dad doesn't looked thrilled in it, but I swear he had a good time, even if he's an IU fan! I'm in the middle of mimicking the follow-through of Walton's shot. Since it was in the 2nd half, chances are it went in.
So, small back story, I do color commentary for High School Hoops here in Southern Indiana, so I'm normally pretty laid back and analytical when I'm watching a game in person. However, when watching Michigan, I'm much too emotionally invested, so analysis of the play that was going on was not on par with what I'm used to.
Oklahoma State Game Thoughts
Obviously, we really struggled with the pick and roll defense and allowed Evans to get into the lane too much, but I feel a lot of it was just being a half-second late in rotations. We also (obviously) got hurt on the glass, but a lot this was a result of the rotations being late and having no one on the back side to rebound.
I knew we were shooting well in the 2nd half of the game, but I had no idea we were 11/15 from 3. Walton was unbelievable and definitely took the match-up with Evans personally. Hard to believe this guy was not even on the preseason Top 50 watch list for the Cousy Award. I think he took that personally as well.
I was definitely on the edge of my seat after OSU banked in the 3. Duncan going only 2-4 at the line down the stretch nearly pushed me over the edge, but relief came after DJ calmly sank his 2 freebies.
Of course, their last 3 went down, but it didn't matter. We did what we had to do to win the game, which is what you have to do in March.
My only complaint about our strategy from this game is that we didn't go down low nearly enough after they switched ball screens (I think we did it 3 times all game and one was when a defender guarding the post fell down). It worked out for us, but if they're going to switch the 5-11 Forte onto Wagner or Wilson, we've got to take advantage of that. As it turns out, we were just saving that for Louisville, but we'll get to that.
Speaking of Forte, I thought MAAR did an excellent job of staying up on him and he really struggled as a result. MAAR also did a pretty good job with Evans once Walton picked up his third.
OK, back to the trip - we went down after the first game and tried to buy a couple t-shirts - they were out of the Michigan-specific ones by that point, so we must have traveled better than I thought on first look.
We watched the second game and then headed out. After we finally found our vehicle (always note the address of the parking garage you park in, kids!), we made the 20-minute trip to a family friend's house to watch games on TV and find tickets for Sundays games.
We found some, but paid more than we would have liked. Overall, I can't complain though, we saw four games for about $100/game. However, we did have a great view of the game.
The view from our seats. Of course we would end up behind the Louisville bench.
By the time we got ready and headed out on our 20-minute drive my nerves were already in full effect. What-ifs (what if Louisville didn't hire strippers to get the players we were playing against) and memories of the Championship game (it was a clean block!) flooded my mind.
In the immediate aftermath of that call, I popped my shoulder out of socket beating on the seat of a recliner from my hands and knees. Ah, youth!
I've had shoulder issues since I fell off a ladder. My arm came down on a desk and the rest of me kept going. I can say that this was the first time that it popped out and wouldn't go back in on it's own though. Thankfully, my brother has a doctorate in Physical Therapy and he was able to instruct me on how to get it back in place.
Louisville Game Thoughts
Anyway, the game was mostly a blur. Pregame cheers and views lead me to believe that we were outnumbered by quite a bit. The officiating appeared awful from the stands early, as a 6-1 discrepancy would indicate. Lots of complaining about it from fans in my section, although, I don't think any were as loud about it as I was (I'm from the basketball-crazed state of Indiana, remember).
When we closed the gap late in the first half, our fans kicked it into gear. Walton picks up a ticky-tack call, his second. He goes to the bench. I'm worried - we can't let them make a run here right before the half.
We played great defense, then they hit that damned "improbable shot." Then a turnover. Then another 3. Finally, the terrible call on Wagner. The run I was fearing happened. Would this be the end?
There was still a vague hope. Wagner had shown some flashes. I don't think they can guard him, but would we take advantage? We hadn't in the Oklahoma State game.
Louisville's length was bothering us and particularly Walton - they ran multiple taller defenders at him, giving him different looks.
The second half was full of urgency. Neither team relented and we just kept trading baskets. My confidence was back, but we had to find a way to get stops. A missed transition 3 and a missed dunk helped, but we were rebounding and defending better than in the first half. Zak hit a couple of tough shots, bringing our fans to their feet.
The look on his face as it spins out is HILARIOUS!
We were able to tie it up. We're not settling for 3's, we're attacking mismatches on the interior and it's working. Wagner with a 3 over Mahmoud, Walton hits one, back to Wagner inside for 2 more. They CAN'T guard Wagner.
He hits 1-2 from the line. Then, a pump-fake drives the lane for a layup and he immediately takes a charge at the other end. I'm going nuts at this point, we have to protect the ball, but if we do that and hit free throws, I think we've got 'em!
Irvin inbounds pass hits the line against the Cardinals pressure. They score. 4 point game. Irvin turns it over against the press and they score again. 2 turnovers at an absolute critical juncture. Irvin inbounding the ball instead of MAAR has been a problem. Don't tell me we're going to lose it now!
Walton with an UNBELIEVABLE finish - up 4. Wilson with ice water in his veins for the 2nd game in a row and then a block on Louisville's final 3-point attempt for good measure. Hysteria!
I'm floating at this point. NOTHING is going to bring me down after this huge win.
So, after I finish going nuts and high-fiving every Michigan fan in my section (including a couple of adorable little ones across the aisle), I tell my dad that he has no choice and he has to take picture with me. I don't ever want to forget this!
This is the first game my dad and I have been at together since he and my mom took my brother and I to a game in Bloomington ~17 years ago in Jamal Crawford's lost season. It didn't end well
Speaking of that trip, a "lovely" woman rooting for IU in that game told my parents that they should have left us in the car. And people wonder why I despise the Hoosiers so much.
We head out into the concourse with a huge smile on my face. Lots of "Go Blue" shouts from Michigan fans walking by. A Purdue fan goes by - "So much for that weak Big Ten, huh?" - "Yeah, buddy! Great game!" Several IU fans tell me "Congrats" or "Great game!"
You know it's a good day when I'm getting along with Purdue and IU fans! We stayed until about 8 minutes left in the 2nd game and headed back to Southern Indiana.
Overall it was a great experience that's been a long time coming.
Honestly, I just wanted to document this somewhere, so I can revisit it later. Thanks for putting up with my ramblings and Go Blue!