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Cliché Reigns on Day Three of Dance

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“This is what the NCAA tournament is all about!”

How many times have we heard it? Through the years? The last three days?

A lot.

When the visual is Javion Hamlet’s dad, in his homemade North Texas sweatshirt, running up and down the aisles. Or Eric Musselman, flush with a Wooooo Pig Soooey victory, standing on a table.

Or, iconic Sister Jean in her Loyola jacket, applauding the Ramblers take down of the Illini.

The story about how Rutgers’ Jacob Young is the son of Phi Slamma Jama’s Michael Young. (Though I could do without the footage of the ‘83 semi-final game.)

I’m somewhat more inclined to think of it describing the moments actually on the court.

Like 15 seed Oral Roberts, ranked #129 by Ken Pomeroy, coming from 11 down with under ten minutes to play to upend Florida.

Or, Oregon State, whom neither you nor I gave a nanosecond of thought to during the season, taking down Oklahoma State, who we heard about every day because of the Cowboys’ star freshman.

* * * * *

But, for me, “This is what the NCAA tournament is all about” is about Loyola (Chicago) 71, Illinois 58.

For, oh so many reasons.

The Ramblers, the nation’s #1 defensive team, were woefully underseeded. You know, Jay and Dickie V and Seth and Phons weren’t shouting their name every 15 seconds on ESPN.

Illinois was a most legit #1 seed. Ayo Dosunmu, a legit All-American.

The underpublicized smaller school beating the state’s premier program, which won’t schedule them during the regular season.

Loyola is a very very good basketball team, with the nation’s top-rated D. With a very very good coach in Porter Moser.

The Ramblers had an exceptional game plan. Which they executed to absolute perfection from opening tip. They never trailed. They kept the Illini measured the whole forty minutes.

Clever, smothering defense. Which, had we been really paying attention during the season, wouldn’t have come as a surprise.

And, oh my, that beauteous high post offense, running through and around clever Cameron Krutwig.

Coming out after intermission, Loyola ran the same set on its first four offensive possessions. Each time it took a different turn. What a joy to watch. I know Denny Crum was smiling.

Over a camera shot of Sister Jean, when the score was 59-46, Bill Raftery correctly observed, “This is not divine intervention. This is excellent basketball.”

Now, that’s what the NCAA tournament is all about.

* * * * *

If you see some fellow walking in Seneca Park in a 1963 Loyola Rambler Championship t-shirt, know it used to be mine.

Me and my occasional generosity?!!?!?

* * * * *

How tough, relentless and exhausting was the Arkansas/ Texas Tech game?

When it was over, I had to take a shower. That, after soaking for a good while in a tub of Epsom Salts, then slathering my aching muscles, such as they are, with analgesic balm.

And, I was just watching the battle royale from my recliner.

It may have been the toughest, most relentless, most exhausting game I’ve ever seen. It was brutal every second. Neither team, as we say, gave any quarter.

Play by play guy Kevin Harlan: “We have seen some sledgehammers thrown.”

So obviously draining was it, that the Razorbacks prevailed by a deuce, only after the Red Raiders made two late runs to get back in it, but then running on fumes, missed two wide open layups and the front end of a 1+1 in the final seconds, which would have won or tied it.

* * * * *

There’s no other way to say it.

Rutgers choked.

Steve Pikiell slowed it down, played not to lose instead of to win. They lost.

Which is not to mention the gutty performance of Cougar DeJon Jarreau. Who had a hip pointer coming in, which was exacerbated when he was hip-checked on an illegal but not called pick by Myles Johnson, the Scarlet Knights big.

Jarreau ended up with 17 and 5, and, in obvious pain, returning to the court late and steadied his mates.

Houston was relentless on the offensive glass. The Cougars grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, and outscored the vanquished, 15-2 in second chance points.

* * * * *

I don’t especially like how the networks schedule the Round of 32 games. Only one option to view during the afternoon. Which sucks if the games aren’t interesting.

Like Baylor vs. Wisconsin.

I actually took a break and went and walked the dogs.

* * * * *

My pals Knuckle and Bookstore Billy have always been big on visiting college campuses.

Every year they compare notes to see who has visited the most in the Dance.

This year, it was a draw at 35 of the 68.

* * * * *

Of Sunday’s eight games, four — that’s 50% — were one possession, coming down to the wire.

* * * * *

Listen I hate watching Jim Boeheim picking his nose on the bench as much as the next guy.

But, I’m similarly intrigued this time of year, when teams not used to facing it, can’t figure out his zone. Even Bob Huggins’ squad.

Plus, Buddy Buckets, Son of Coach, has a sweet sweet stroke.

* * * * *

Gotta ask.

Why were Clark and Seth and Wally all wearing vests?

* * * * *

One more all day all night of String Music Hinkle Fieldhouse, before we take a break.

Let’s tip.

— c d kaplan