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Blogging Live from the Tourney

by Craig Edwards

Posted on March 19, 2009 at 12:38 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:40 PM

What's up everybody. Craig Edwards here, Live at the Rose Garden. March Madness is underway. Right now, the Northern Iowa Panthers are taking on the Purdue Boilermakers.
I'll keep you updated on what things are like here at the Garden all day long.

We're at a timeout with 13 minutes left in the first half, with Purdue taking a 10 point lead. For those wondering how these teams got here, Northern Iowa nabbed an automatic bid by winning the Missouri Valley conference tournament after a 23-10 regular season. Purdue is also an automatic bid, winning the Big 10 tournament after a 25-9 regular season.

It's a nice crowd today, a legit sellout. They even sold what are normally the media seats at Blazers games. Walking the concourses, most of the big monitors were set on the TV coverage of the tournament, with crowds gathered around to watch action from around the country.

We're at another timeout, with just under 7 minutes left in the first half. Purdue is holding onto a 7 point lead with some tough defense.

If you're watching at home, you may have noticed a couple of things on the actual floor itself. First, it's a different court than the Blazers' usual hardwood. This year, the NCAA actually painted floors at some first round sights after players and coaches complained about slipping on the NCAA decals they used last year. Second, you'll see a little University of Oregon logo. They're the host school for these games, and get a little advertising out of it.


We've hit halftime in game one, with Purdue holding 32-20 lead. Sitting behind the Purdue bench, I can tell you that it's definitely not a G rated environment. I mentioned defense earlier, so it should come as no suprise that when a guy comes to the bench, that's what the coaches are praising him for, or yelling at him to improve.



Since it's halftime, how about a little trivia? Let's talk famous alumni. Northern Iowa can proudly claim Arena Football star and Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner as one of its own. Among notable folks from Purdue, you'll find Amelia Earhart, Neil Armstrong, NFL Hall of Famers Len Dawson and Hank Stram, and actor George Peppard, perhaps best known as "Hannibal" on the A-Team.


Since we talked defense in the first half, let's talk O now. The big word from the Purdue bench is "Movement." Coaches are constantly telling (or yelling mainly) to move around when they don't have the ball. We're at at timeout with just under 16 minutes to go and Purdue holding its 10-point lead.


Just under 9 minutes to go in the game, and Purdue still holds onto a 10-point lead. Players, cheerleaders, and coaches for Mississippi St. are in the building now. They play next, about half an hour after this first game wraps up.


The Purdue band treated us to their rendition of "Livin on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi. Never heard it played quite like that before. Crowd at the garden is clearly behind Northern Iowa. I guess everybody loves underdogs.


Things have gotten interesting as we've hit another timeout. Northern Iowa has cut the lead to 6 with just under 3 minutes left. And with the 3-pointer, that's really only a 2 possession lead. Outside of the forward pass in football, it's hard to think of any rule that has changed its sport as much as the 3-point shot.


61-56 is your final. Northern Iowa got it down to 2 points, but Purdue made their free throws to hold on in the end. They move on to get the winner of our next game between Mississippi St and Washington. They tip in about 25 minutes.

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We're about 10 minutes away from the start of Miss St. vs. Washington. The crowd is definitely pro-Husky. I'll try to not let my inner Coug get the best of me on this one (though I reserve the right to hiss at them at least once).

Mississippi St. earned its way into the big dance with an automatic bid after winning the SEC tournament. After a 23-12 regular season (only 9-7 in the conference), they beat Georgia, South Carolina, LSU, and Tennessee to win their conference. That netted them a 13 seed in the West Region.

Washington got an at-large bid after winning the Pac-10 regular season, finishing 25-8 overall, and 14-4 in the Pac-10. However, they did get knocked out by Arizona St. in the conference tournament.


I'm behind the Miss St. bench this time around. We are underway.


We've hit a timeout with just under 16 minutes in the first half, and Miss. St. already has 4 team fouls. We could be seeing a lot of free throws early for the Huskies.


With a little less than 12 minutes left in the first half, we're tied at 10. Both teams have turned it over a few times.

I've got to give some props to the kids who mop up all the sweat off the floor. They're often on the court during the game, when the action is at the other end. They've got to do their job and keep an eye on the game at the same time. Nice job, guys.

About 7 minutes to go in the half, and Washington is up by 5. Miss. St. is killing themselves with turnovers. Washington is too good of a team to keep giving them opportunities.


I don't know if TV can accurately translate how LOUD it is in this building. During a timeout the UW band gives us there take on "Smells like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana. Not bad at all. Their team leads by 10.


We're at halftime, with Washington up 11. They're now honoring the Huskies' woman's cross country national champions. It's a cool reminder that football and basketball get all the hype, but there are thousands of student athletes in colleges across the country.


Who's up for more halftime trivia? I looked it up all up, so I guess I am. Famous alumni from Mississippi St. include author John Grisham, former baseball star Will Clark, and Seahawks O-Lineman Floyd "Porkchop" Womack (one of the coolest nicknames in sports).

If you attended the University of Washington, you may have known Blazers' star Brandon Roy, actor Patrick Duffy, new Seahawks head coach Jim Mora, multiple members of the Nordstrom family, or my uncle Ralph (okay, he's not really famous, but I've got to give a family shout out). We're about two minutes from a new half.


We're underway in the second half. Some telling stats from the first 20 minutes; Miss. St. shot only 30 percent from the field and turned it over 9 times. With about 17 minutes left in the game now, Washington leads by 17.


You heard a collective gasp from the crowd as Huskies big man Jon Brockman take a nasty spill going for a rebound. You then heard a collective sigh of relief when he popped right up and ran down the court.


With just under 12 minutes to go, UW has widened their lead to 18. There's still a lot of time to go, but Miss. St. is struggling to make shots. It could be a long game for them.


About 5 minutes left in the game, and Jon Brockman just picked up his 4th foul. Miss. St. just got it down to 15, but then quickly turned it over and Riley Bennock grabbed Isaiah Thomas with an intentional foul to prevent the fast break.



And this one is over, as the bench guys make their way into the game. Washington looks impressive heading into Saturday for their matchup with Purdue. For the Bulldogs, a great postseason run comes to an end. 71-58 is your final.

This ends the first session of the day. Gonzaga vs. Akron kicks off that second session at about 4:25. I'll see you then.


Next up is Gonzaga vs. Akron. Much like the Washington game, I expect the crowd to be fully behind the Bulldogs.

The Akron Zips made the NCAA tournament as the Mid-American Conference champions, along with a 23-12 regular season. They beat Toledo, Miami of Ohio, Bowling Green, & Buffalo to win their confernce tournament. If a couple of those school names sound familiar, it's because MAC teams have a history of pulling off big upsets in the tourney.

In what may sound like a broken record, Gonzaga enters the tournament as West Coast Conference champs. They finished 26-5 on the year.


Things are underway. Akron's bench is in front of me this time.


This is a good one so far, with Gonzaga taking a 2-point lead going into a timeout. Akron is using the outside shot effictively, and getting their guys open. The Bulldogs are pounding it inside to Josh Heytvelt.


We're at a timeout, with about 8 minutes to go in the half, and Gonzaga holding onto a 2-point lead. Akron managed to answer a quick Gonzaga spurt, and will have the ball after the TO with a chance to tie.


It's a close one, and Akron leads 38-35 as we hit halftime. They effectively used the 3-ball, and forced Gonzaga to foul. This one's far from over, and is our game of the day so far in Portland.

Joe Becker points out the sign of the night. An Akron fan says "I'd rather be a Zip than a Zag."


The second half's about 10 minutes away. Trivia time: Notable Akron Zips include Jason Taylor of NFL and "Dancing with the Stars" fame, along with Alan Bean and Edgar Mitchell, who both walked on the moon.

Famouse Gonzaga alumni include Singer Bing Crosby, John Stockton, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, along with my friends Trevor and Liz (again not famous, but I don't want to be disowned by them).


More halftime. The Gonzaga band tries out "Smooth" by Santana. A big stat for. you; Akron hit 5 3-pointers compared to just 2 for Gonzaga. That's your 3-point lead for the Zips right there.


The second half is underway.


Time out with about 15 minutes left in the game, Akron holding onto a 5-point lead. They seem to be hitting that outside shot, often a 3, at just the right time to quash a Gonzaga run.


We're at a time out with 11:37 on the clock. Neither team seems able to get enough momentum to get them to a decent lead. Gonzaga's up by one with Akron about to shoot free throws,


A Josh Heytvelt dunk with 8 minutes gives Gonzaga a 5-point lead and brings the fairly quiet crowd alive. The 3-pointers Akron was making in the first half just aren't falling right now.


Gonzaga makes something like a 20-3 run, giving them a 15-point lead with just under 5 minutes to go. This was the one thing Akron managed to avoid in the first half, but just couldn't get shots to fall and quell any kind of spurt by the Zags.


77-64 is your final, Gonzaga moves to the second round. Good effort by Akron though. Here's the final numbers of that run I was talking about. At 9:43, Akron had a 52-51 lead. By the time they scored again, 3:34 had gone by and Gonzaga scored 15 points.


We're coming up on 5 minutes left until the final game of the night. Western Kentucky and Illinois will battle for the chance to take on Gonzaga on Saturday.

The Hilltoppers come into the big dance as Sun Belt Conference champions, with a regular season record of 24-8. They are the 12th seed in the South region.

Illinois scored an at-large bid, thanks to a 24-9 regular season. They lost to Purdue in the Big 10 tournament.


I have no idea what on Earth (or any other planet for that matter) the Western Kentucky mascot is supposed to be. But their fans seem to like it.



We are underway. I'm sitting behind the Illinois bench this time.


Another good game so far, with Western Kentucky holding a 4-point lead with 12 minutes in the first half. Jeff Jordan is in the game. Yes, he is Michael Jordan's son. Imagine having to live up to that legacy.

We hit a timeout with about 5 minutes to go in the first half, and we have our first upset alert in Portland. Western Kentucky leads by 9, and that's after Illinois went on a quick run to get there before the timeout.


The first half comes to an end with Western Kentucky leading by 9. They've done it with rebounding and outside shooting.


TIme for one last round of trivia. Notable Alums from Illinois include Roger Ebert, both Jesse Jackson and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr, and Conan O'Brien's sidekick Andy Richter.

From Western Kentucky, you've got director John Carpenter and Rob Smart, best known as "He Hate Me" in the XFL.


The second half is underway. Joe Becker did some in depth reporting and asked a couple of the Western Kentucky folks about their mascot. All they would say is "He embodies the spirit of Western." That still doesn't explain anything.


We've got 15 minutes left in the game, and Western Kentucky is up by 15. They are getting open looks from 3-point range and hitting those shots. Suffice it to say that Illinois coach Bruce Weber isn't too happy.


We're almost halfway through the second half and Western Kentucky is holding on to their 11 point lead. Illinois has cut it down, but keeps giving up easy baskets, including two straight dunks.


Illinois has the lead down to 7 with less than 90 seconds. This one's going to be fun for the next few minutes.


We have our first upset. 76-72 is your final as Western Kentucky survives a furious comeback by Illinois. Portland saved its best game for last, especially an incredible performance by the Hilltoppers.

Folks, I have had an absolute blast writing and talking sports with you all day. Enjoy the rest of the tournament.

After 10 hours of sitting down, I need to take a long walk.

Good night.