Live from Vinings Estates: The 2009 NCAA tournament!

My view of the proceedings. Note handsome pedicure. (Amateur photo by M. Bradley)

My view of the proceedings. Note handsome pedicure. (Amateur photo by M. Bradley)

Yes, it feels strange. Every year since 1980, I’ve either been covering first-round games or en route to cover first-round games on this Thursday, and this time I’m not. Due to budgetary considerations — me, I blame it all on AIG — I won’t be attending the 2009 NCAA tournament. On the one hand, I’m a tad sad. On the other, I’m sort of excited because …

I get to do what normal folks do, which is sit around watching games all day. I’ve totally forgotten how that works. I can tell you about my cruddy motel (yes, motel) in Evansville, Ind., or how it feels to commute between first-round sites, which I’ve done a half-dozen times, or the ice storm in Syracuse or the time Billy Packer snapped at me — he called me “fella” — at the Georgia Dome, but I have no real memory of how it feels to stay home in front of the TV.

Being all about interactivity, I will share my personal observations — at an NCAA site long ago, Alex Wolff of Sports Illustrated and I dubbed such things “personal obs” — with you lucky folks. I’ll be here from noon till 6 p.m., at which time I will … well, I’ll assume I’ll ready myself to watch more games.

And if things get boring I’ll tell you about the time my Radio Shack TRS-100 crashed at the tournament in Birmingham and the late Van McKenzie, the AJC’s legendary sports editor, sent a replacement over via Greyhound. (You meet the nicest people at the Birmingham bus station in the middle of the night.) Or the time Dale Brown called me out of a press conference in Knoxville to tell me I’d made his daughter cry.

Or the time I tried to talk to Danny Manning’s father Ed, then a Kansas assistant, and KU aide Alvin Gentry started yelling at me because I was “the guy from Atlanta” who wrote something mean about point guard Cedric Hunter. Or the time Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs called me “some jerk in Atlanta.” Or the time …

OK, I digress. I’m guessing we’ll have time for digressions. But stick around and we might also have a little fun, and somewhere along the line I’ll tell you about Seth Davis’ dad.

Update: 11:26 a.m.

A courtside Cabinet meeting. (Photo by Howie Schwab)

A courtside Cabinet meeting of basketball geniuses. (Photo by Howie Schwab)

CBS isn’t even on the air with the tournament yet, and we’ve got our first semi-bogus controversy. President Obama picked his Final Four and didn’t include Duke, which prompted Mike Krzyzewski, who’s used to getting his way, to advise the chief executive to focus on the economy. So here’s what I’m wondering: When Coach K does yet another of his goofy commercials, should our President issue an executive order requiring that he stick to basketball?

One thing more. President Obama (pictured above, to the right of my feet) revealed his picks to the famous Andy Katz of ESPN. It has been a big few days for Mr. Katz. Not only did he get to hang with the Prez, he had his photo taken with Dickie V. and me last week at the ACC tournament. I’m guessing the latter was a bigger thrill.

Update: 11:45 a.m.

We’re about to get underway here, and I thought it only fair to tell you who I’m picking this afternoon and why.

LSU over Butler: I have a bad feeling about this one, given Butler’s NCAA history, but this isn’t the same bunch of Bulldogs. It’s younger. And LSU’s pretty good. And John Brady isn’t coaching there anymore.

Memphis over Cal-Northridge: I’ve got the Tigers losing Saturday, but not today. (Losing to Maryland, another pick I know I’ll regret.)

Texas A&M over BYU: No real reason. I just think it’s funny that Billy Gillispie’s old team made the tournament and his new one is in the NIT. Oh, and have you noticed that Tubby Smith’s new team (Minnesota) is in the Big Dance as well? Sure you have.

Northern Iowa over Purdue: You aren’t a real hoops maven unless you pick one 5/12 upset. And Northern Iowa won the Missouri Valley Conference, which always represents rather well.

Radford over North Carolina: OK, I’m kidding. But if Ty Lawson doesn’t play, this could be close for 25 minutes.

Maryland over California: And I just know Greivis Vasquez will turn the ball over 15 times and make me look like a moron. (See, I’m fatalistic about my picks.)

UConn over Chattanooga: I picked UConn to win its regional, but I’m starting to wish I hadn’t.

Washington over Mississippi State: I actually sort of picked State to win the SEC tourney, which it did, but I don’t trust Rick Stansbury in the Big Dance. And the game’s in Portland, which is, I believe, closer to Seattle than to Starkville.

Update: 1:31 p.m.

CBS just reported that Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun has been hospitalized and will not work his team’s game this afternoon. George Blaney, who used to be the head coach at Seton Hall and Holy Cross, will step in.

Memphis leads Northridge by three points at the half but wouldn’t seem in real trouble. Butler has closed its gap to six against LSU. Texas A&M is comfortably ahead of Brigham. And Tim Brando is making me lose my religion.

I've relocated to the living room. Note comfy slippers. (Amateur photo by M. Bradley)

I've relocated to the living room. Note comfy slippers. (Amateur photo by M. Bradley)

Update: 2:07 p.m.

Because I’m tired of hearing cracks about my TV — and also because the wireless was getting iffy in the bedroom — I’ve relocated to the living room.

And Northridge is up by three, inside nine minutes. Who was the idiot complaining about being fed the Memphis game?

Update: 2:38 p.m.

An amazing thing has happened: The NCAA tournament is two hours old and I haven’t lost a team. Memphis pulls away. LSU holds on. Texas A&M eliminates BYU for the second year running. And now you’re asking: Why did A&M and BYU play two years in a row? Doesn’t the committee shy away from rematches?

Usually, yes. But BYU presents a singular seeding problem. The school refuses to allow any of its teams to play on Sunday, and therefore BYU must be seeded into a Thursday-Saturday subregional that feeds into a Thursday-Saturday regional, which narrows the grid by half. You might recall that in 2003 the committee, which was chaired by a BYU alumnus, forgot and had to redraw its bracket after it had been released to accommodate the Cougars.

Update: 3:32 p.m.

Chattanooga leads Connecticut by two. Carolina leads Radford by 12. Purdue is up by 12 on Northern Iowa, which I picked to win in a moment of insanity, at halftime. And Maryland leads Cal by three with 7:31 remaining.

And here’s the Associated Press story on Calhoun’s still-undisclosed illness.

Update: 5:42 p.m.

Winding down now. Nothing much has happened since Memphis took control at the end. UConn and Carolina won by about 100 points between them. (Ninety-nine points, to be precise.) Maryland pulled away against Cal. Only one lower seed has advanced, and you couldn’t call Maryland much of an underdog against Cal. I’ve missed one game (Northern Iowa lost to Purdue) and still am not terribly satisfied.

I mean, I wait 28 years to sit at home and watch Day 1 of the Big Dance like a normal person, and I don’t get a single Szczerbiak or Valparaiso moment. All I got was Tim Brando talking about “attacking the rack.” Had I paid, I’d want my money back. But I didn’t, so I’ll just go off and sulk.

Until tonight. Something great will happen then, I feel sure.

242 comments Add your comment

Dooner

March 19th, 2009
11:15 am

Can’t believe you have 4 ACC teams in the final 8.

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
11:19 am

And Duke’s not one of them. Go figure.

MightyQuinn

March 19th, 2009
11:28 am

Who’s the cutie above the TV?

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
11:39 am

Why, Quinn, that would be Rachel Bradley, who’s about 16 years older as we speak. Thanks for asking.

True story: The first-ever NCAA game I attended in person (as a fan, not a writer) was in UK’s Memorial Coliseum in 1975. The then-unbeaten Indiana Hoosiers played (and beat) UTEP that day, and Scott May, who’d broken his wrist earlier in the season, came in at the end wearing a cast. And the IU band, in honor of Quinn Buckner, played “The Mighty Quinn,” which was written by Bob Dylan, who’s also represented (in a hidden way) in the photo above. The blue box atop the TV is the deluxe edition of Bobby’s “Tell Tale Signs.”

ND

March 19th, 2009
11:42 am

The best part this year is there is no Billy Packer.

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
11:57 am

I’d be lying if I told you I like Billy Packer. But I always considered him a really good announcer.

MightyQuinn

March 19th, 2009
12:00 pm

I figured a proud poppa would like a plug of their progeny! (How’s that for alliteration?) Closest I’ve gotten to March Madness Live was getting to see Lefty Driesell coach the Ga State Panthers (my alma mater)at their conference-clinching championship game. Hated to see him go, as I have always thought that winning basketball at GSU would do well, much the way your U of L Cardinals did. I thought (and still think) that sinking a ton of money into a football program was a waste that should have gone into drawing another big name hoops guy, and this is coming from a Bill Curry fan.

No Lawson No Chamipionship

March 19th, 2009
12:01 pm

No Flat screen tv? Times must be tough at the AJC

SlimG

March 19th, 2009
12:08 pm

Yeah Mark, go out and spend a few dollars to help the economy. Looks like a bad acid trip from the 80’s. LOL

Rachel Bradley

March 19th, 2009
12:09 pm

HA!!!! Your feet look sexy and I’m quite happy that there is a big picture of ME on top of the TV. It may be a little dated but it is still my beautiful face. lol. PS. dad didn’t mention that he is also blogging in his PJs from his bedroom. Don’t you wish you had his job?

SlimG

March 19th, 2009
12:10 pm

P.S. Water that plant!

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
12:10 pm

I was at that TAAC championship game, Quinn. (Remember the TAAC?) I remember Kevin Morris, the transfer from Tech, being really good. And Thomas Terrell, whom I was always afraid I was going to call Terrell Thomas, was, too.

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
12:12 pm

That is in fact the real Rachel Bradley chiming in above. She’s upstairs in her palatial room. She’s clearly unaware I have changed from my jammies to a pair of shorts. (Though not jean shorts. What, you think I’m a Gator?)

SlimG

March 19th, 2009
12:13 pm

Don’t forget about Sam Mitchell in the Taac. Mark, what’s going on down at Mercer these days? I know they built some facilities on campus.

Rachel Bradley

March 19th, 2009
12:17 pm

Was that supposed to be funny? And everyone seems more concerned with our housing decor than the game. I don’t know much about sports but that says to me either the game stinks or we need to do some serious redecorating. BTW: I was not two when the picture was taken, therefore I am not 16 years older, I was more like 5. and thank you to whoever called me a cutie.

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
12:17 pm

Mercer beat Southern Cal last year, then fired Mark Slonaker. Then it beat Alabama and Auburn this year under new coach Bob Hoffman and took Tech to OT. Mercer finished 17-15, which pretty much made it the best Georgia hoops team this season.

brewdawg

March 19th, 2009
12:18 pm

Wow, really a jerk response from Coach K. I am neutral towards Obama, as I am with every president. (Wouldn’t it be more productive if everyone just took a “wait and see” approach when a Pres was elected, instead of immediately finding ways to criticize and bad-mouth every Commander in Chief? But, I like, Mr. Bradley, digress). So what if Obama kept a pre-election promise to Mr. Katz, and, like almost every other American, filled out a bracket. Hell, I’d be more annoyed if he DIDN’T fill out a bracket.

MightyQuinn

March 19th, 2009
12:18 pm

I remember the whole team had no conscious putting up 3’s! And they could hit’em too, as they went 27-4 that season. Beat Wisconsin in the first round of the dance. I remember a dejected Wisconsin player saying increduously in the locker room afterwards, “We got beat by GEORGIA STATE?!?” I can’t remember who put them out in the next round though, but I remember they couldn’t hit the ground if they had fallen out of an airplane in that game. I wonder how Lefty is doing these days?

SugarPikeGang

March 19th, 2009
12:19 pm

I am very impressed with that TV set. Awesome! You make me feel very privileged to have my Sony Trinitron from 1997. Mad prop’s for keeping it simple.

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
12:19 pm

Rachel Bradley has made her way downstairs. She thinks we do need a new TV. I think she needs a college education. Can’t have both, I’m afraid.

Mike

March 19th, 2009
12:20 pm

Let the games begin….and the faking like I’m working for the next two days.

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
12:22 pm

As esteemed former colleague Gerry Overton said back in 1987, “Every red-blooded American fills out an NCAA bracket.” That comment was in fact the whole genesis of the Final Four Fiasco.

SlimG

March 19th, 2009
12:24 pm

Wow, LSU just too many athletes for Butler to handle. Serious mismatches here. Mark, just kidding about the decor. Thanks for the Mercer update.

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
12:25 pm

LSU leads Butler 7-nil. Tasmin Mitchell with a fallaway. Remember T. Mitchell and Garrett Temple from LSU’s Final Four team of 2006?

Me, I remember getting into a heated discussion with John Brady in the hall of the Georgia Dome the day after his team upset Duke in the regional. He resented me calling him Shady Brady in print, though Shady Brady was indeed his nickname. He said, “You don’t know me well enough to call me that.”

By the end of the regional, I should note, Brady and I were getting along.

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
12:27 pm

The first of what I’m sure will be several CBS-related gripes: Why are we getting switched to Memphis-Northridge? Is Atlanta, Ga., not considered SEC territory? Is not the SEC title game staged here? Does CBS not broadcast the SEC title game?

SlimG

March 19th, 2009
12:28 pm

I like CS North’s 3-2 zone. Force Memphis to make the 3’s and run set offense.

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
12:28 pm

First of what I’m sure will be many Tim Brando-related gripes. He just said Memphis could “arguably” have won the 2008 title.

Uh, they led by nine with two minutes left in the title game. There’s nothing arguable about that. The Tigers SHOULD have won it.

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
12:29 pm

Maryland beat Georgia State in the second round of the 2001 NCAA.

Brando just said Cheech Marin went to Northridge: I did not know that.

brewdawg

March 19th, 2009
12:30 pm

This is a weird year for me. I’m used to having my sheets printed out in front of me, glued to every game, hoping to best my friends’ and win the group kitty. However, the friend that usually organizes it decided he had too much other stuff going on. (What is more important than brackets??) So why not just get something going on my own? Well, I just got out of the military and moved back home, so I haven’t had enough time to track down everyone on my own. (Or track down a job for that matter). So I was counting on my bud to get it organized. So it’s Mark Bradley sweatshirt or bust this year!

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
12:32 pm

Upset alert! Northridge leads Memphis 11-4.

And Brando just said the Northridge coach’s son had to appear in court this Monday.

MightyQuinn

March 19th, 2009
12:32 pm

Anybody know if the games are available on the internet? I am in Council Bluffs, IA with no access to a TV.

SlimG

March 19th, 2009
12:34 pm

I see Memphis brought or bought the officials?

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
12:35 pm

I believe the games are on CBSsports.com or NCAA.com. But you can only go there if you promise to come back here.

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
12:36 pm

The first of what I’m sure will be a multitude of commercial-related gripes: Has anyone ever found one of those Sonic commercials even mildly amusing?

MightyQuinn

March 19th, 2009
12:37 pm

Oooops, nevermind. Googled it, I’m there.

Cody Anderson

March 19th, 2009
12:37 pm

First off, this is pretty cool to be talking with you guys at the Bradley household! For those of you who have access to HD channels, you can get multiple games. It’s pretty cool how it works, channel 811, 809, and regular channel 9 have games right now. They just switch to different games all day

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
12:38 pm

Memphis ties it.

Brando: Northridge is “attacking the rack.” Sounds like a sale at Filene’s Basement.

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
12:38 pm

I got no HD. I’m lucky to have basic cable.

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
12:40 pm

Brando just said “attacking the rack” again. He also said the Memphis players are “as long as the 94 feet.” And “the iron downright rude.”

The mute button beckons.

Dawg Fud

March 19th, 2009
12:44 pm

Brando is such a meathead.

did you hear that exchangehe had with a caller on Feinbaum’s radion show. what a dork.

Cody Anderson

March 19th, 2009
12:45 pm

Sorry about that Mark. I know it’s early but if Memphis were to go down here, I think just about everybody’s bracket is shot. I don’t have them in Detroit but still…

SlimG

March 19th, 2009
12:45 pm

Mark, turn off the sound and listen to Atlanta radio. Check that, our radio is bad, plug in your ipod. Unless you need them to tell you what’s going on. Hope not!

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
12:47 pm

I did hear that delightful exchange. Here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/cyc2xv

brewdawg

March 19th, 2009
12:47 pm

The Sonic commercials with the two guys usually makes me laugh, the others are mildly amusing.

Dawg Fud

March 19th, 2009
12:47 pm

Rachel – your dad is a good man. refusing to dip into your college fund for a HD 52 inch flatscreen.

i must tip my cap to you Mr. Bradley. i am recently married with no children (yet) and convinced my wife we needed a big 42 inch LCD. now she watches Desperate Houswives on it and i don’t ever get access to it!

brewdawg

March 19th, 2009
12:49 pm

Oh, and I have HD and a HD tv, and it is glorious. Tell Rachel you’ll be happy to buy her both… as a college graduation present. See how I’m always backing you up (and getting into your business) Mark?

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
12:50 pm

I remember talking to Tech booster Taz Anderson a couple of days after the Jackets beat the school from Athens. He told me he’d watched it on his 96″ TV.

I thought: “I don’t even have a 96″ HOUSE.”

MightyQuinn

March 19th, 2009
12:51 pm

OK Mark, I’m back. Looks like a 2-15 upset brewing! What do you think was the greatest 2-15 upset in history was?

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2009
12:52 pm

Butler closing in on LSU. Texas A&M up on BYU by 18. Memphis playing dreadfully but leading Northridge, which has attacked the rack with reckless abandon, by a point.

Cody Anderson

March 19th, 2009
12:53 pm

Wow…a 96″ TV…don’t even know what to say on that one. On a seperate note, could someone please tell me why west region games are being played in Philly?