With March Madness in full swing, it is a time of conference tournaments and automatic bids and brackets and bubble teams. Amidst all the hype, I was able to attend the title game of the Big West Conference. The game featured the top-seeded Cal State Northridge Matadors against the University of Pacific Tigers. Was this the greatest tournament ever? Not even close. That honor of course goes to Randy "Macho Man" Savage and his run through Wrestlemania 4 to claim the WWF title. But I digress. Below is my running diary from the Anaheim Convention Center. Is this idea reeking of Bill Simmons? Sure...but he's never covered the Big West. So there. Enjoy.
All times in Pacific Standard Time
8:40pm - We have arrived at the wondrous Anaheim Convention Center right next-door to Disneyland and secured some court-level seats among the Pacific fans. Neither team traveled terribly well for this late Saturday Night affair. The teams take the floor for the layups and a look to the upper deck shows plenty of good seats available. The Big East tourney this is not.
8:45pm - A small pack of Northridge fans mob for ESPN cameras as the highly talented Pacific band jumps into a rendition of "Take on Me" by A-Ha.
8:47pm - An obnoxious Northridge fan holding a "Matadors Dancing" sign enters the Pacific section and just shoves the sign in faces of random people, nobody is sure what to do with this guy as he does not speak and eventually leave. On a side note the Pacific mascot "Powercat" has entere the building, he appears undersized for a mascot but I'm told has a great 40-yd dash time.
8:55pm - A man is selling programs. He might as well have been selling robot insurance. Nobody is buying.
9:00pm - ESPN2 is covering this one, on the call Jonny Chimpo and Mahmoud Abdul Rauf. Just kidding I actually have no idea who these guys are and I watch a ton of ESPN.
9:07pm - Lineups are introduced, important to mention Northridge coach Bobby Braswell had a great article written on him in the New York Times last week about the struggles this team has faced.
9:10pm - We are finally underway with a sequence that goes: missed layup - airball - offensive foul - travel - travel, makes for what some might call a "sloppy start."
9:14pm - Thank you Jesus, Kenny Daniels hits a three for CSUN and the crowd, all 600 of them explode.
9:15pm - Pacific answers with a trey. Don't sleep on the Tigers. It's 3-3. Savor this Pacific hoop, as there might not be one for a while
9:16pm - Media time out, it's 5-3 CSUN after four minutes of action and you can barely hear yourself think. In the movie made about Pacific, Jon Voight has been cast as head coach Bob Thomason.
9:18pm - An inbound pass hits the rim for Pacific. Just double checking - this is a Division 1 NCAA conference title game, right?
9:20pm - CSUN hits a three that touches every part of the rim and the shotclock and goes in. Powercat reaches for his flask.
9:22pm - Things are getting out of hand at 14-3 CSUN with 13:54 to go and Voight calls for timeout
9:27pm - Another media timeout as CSUN is up 15-3 where is Michael Olowokandi when you need him? The Kandi man is not coming through that door fans.
9:32pm - This game appears to be headed for disaster as CSUN is up 21-3, but UOP stops the bledding with a three at to cut it to 24-6.
9:47pm - Skipping ahead from some awful basketball...and don't call it a comeback! UP is down 8 (but of course CSUN answers with a jumper and its a ten point game at 26-16).
9:48pm - Coach Braswell, a decent lookalike for Bunk from The Wire, seems somewhat concerned for the first time as Pacific mounts a rally. My concern continues to be the availability of nachos during halftime which I housed during halftime of a game on Wednesday.
9:51pm - Michael Kirby hits a three and the foul. Pacific to within seven and Powercat is aroused?
9:54pm - Domino Motherf*cker, UOP down five after another three pointer.
9:58pm - We reach halftime with Northridge still in the lead at 33-27, but at least it is a game. Great sign in the CSUN section "Get the Hella Out of Here." A nice slight at Northern California vocabulary.
10:23pm - We rejoin the action with Northridge up 35-30 as I just finished demolishing some nachos. Those nachos were like Pacific in the first ten minutes of this game, no chance. On a side note, I passed a few members of the Pacific dance team with back problems, poor girls. That damn Kevin Rudolf song is on again, making this is an official sporting event.
10:27pm - Now 38-34 in favor of Northridge and on the east coast - where the only place this game is airing - is in the background of strip clubs. Gentleman have started to notice it's getting close, that lapdance can wait.
10:31pm - UOP for three! If Ralph Lawlor were on the call, he would say "Bingo." UOP is within one at 38-37 with 13:41 to go. "Business is starting to pick," up as Jim Ross would say.
10:32pm - A pair of free throws by UOP and we are tied at 42-42 and Anaheim is on fire right now with excitement.
10:41pm - CSUN rips off a mini 4-0 run prompting Voight to call for timeout and Ice Cube to confirm that there are indeed snakes in the water this big.
10:44pm - Mark Hill spins in the lane and hits a beauty for Northridge. Somewhere Marv Albert is saying, "Oh what a move by Hill!"
10:49pm - Northridge expands back to a 51-42 lead in what has been a largely sloppy game with 6:50 remaining in regulation. CSUN has adopted the "put the ball on the rim and hope for good things" strategy. I use this same strategy in water basketball.
10:55pm - Another monster triple by Pacific to pull within three. The Tigers will not die and there is 4:40 remaining. CSUN counters moments later with a shot and the back and forth continues.
10:57pm - Pacific rejoices as a Northridge players fouls out. In other news Olowokandi just emerged from a champagne room and remarked, "Oh sweet, Pacific is on."
11:00pm - It's now 2am on the east coast. Outside of Johnny Flynn, who else would be awake watching this game? And it's getting good again.
11:02pm - Anthony Brown, codename AB among Pacific fans, slides inside for a layup and the foul, missing the free throw but UOP is still within one at 54-43.
11:08pm - A fadeaway by CSUN with under two minutes remaining and they take a four point lead at 59-55. Is UOP done?
11:11pm - No they aren't. Bryan LeDuc hits a huge three for Pacific with just :58 seconds left and it's 61-59 in favor of CSUN. Cue the Rocky music from the Pacific band, no joke.
11:13pm - A shot clock violation on Northridge and the ball back to UOP with 22 seconds left. I am now standing, because everyone is standing.
11:15pm - With just 5.4 seconds left Michael Kirby draws a foul and he calmly drains both shots to tie the game at 61-61 (onions), and then Northridge misses a chuck at the buzzer and somehow we are going to overtime after such a terrible start to the game.
11:20pm - CSUN opens the overtime with a three pointer, but UOP is there to answer the bell and it's tied at 64.
11:26pm - CSUN hits again from downtown and that combined with a prior score puts them up 69-64 and this one seems to be getting away from Pacific
11:29pm - UOP gets another shot with a shot from three, but rushes the possession, doesn't get a good look and it's all Northridge.
11:33pm - Time expires on the game and 71-66 Northridge is going to the Dance. The court floods with Matador fans and they will be in the mix of 65. I soak in the enjoyment of the Northridge folk and disappointment of Pacific and the gang before heading out. Another automatic bid in the books, Big West style. Good Night from Anaheim.
Ed. Note - Northridge was seeded 15 in the tourney and will take on Memphis. Good luck, Matadors.