IT’S MADNESS … (MARCH) MADNESS

Time to find a blank bracket (they’re all over the internet) because the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament bracket will be announced Sunday. CBS Sports will televise its Selection Sunday Show from 5:30-7 p.m.

Last year, CBS Sports doubled the Selection Sunday Show from one hour to two hours, probably because to accommodate all the talking heads, the live campus shots of teams celebrating (or not celebrating) their tournament bids and the commercials, commercials, commercials.

According to the New York Times, it took 77 minutes to reveal the bracket – just a little under the length of Jim Boeheim’s post-game press conference rant the other day why the ACC Tournament should never be played again in Greensboro, N.C.

Fans, probably those with a $$$ interest, complained that the show was too long – hey, it takes time to get those home-made brackets printed out at the local FedEx store for Monday’s betting pools at the office.

CBS listened – it cut the show by 30 minutes. Yip-pee.

SOME SHINING MOMENTS
As only the late Luther Vandross can sing it, here’s the “One Shining Moment” played after last year’s championship game in Houston:

Now here’s eight of my favorite shining moments during NCAA tournaments of the past:

8. WOLFPACK’S CHARLES SLAMS PHI SLAMA JAMA IN(TO) THE PIT

No one thought North Carolina State, which had to win the ACC Tournament (and did) to get an NCAA bid, could beat coach Guy Lewis’ Houston “Phi Slama Jama” which included Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. No one except Wolfpack coach Jimmy Valvano, whose team won nine in a row to end the season; guard Dereck Whittenburg, who took the next-to-last shot against Houston that fell short, and center Lorenzo Charles, who corralled the miss and slammed in the game-winner that provided the Wolfpack a 54-52 upset victory at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M., for the 1983 title.

7. A GAME-WINNER BY FORREST THAT AL LETS EVERYONE HEAR

I just love listening to the reaction of the late Al McGuire, who coached the Marquette Warriors to the 1977 NCAA title over North Carolina and retired to the broadcast booth, after seeing James Forrest’s “Hail Mary” prayer get answered in a 79-78 victory over No. 2 seed Southern California in the 1992 Midwest Regional’s second round at Milwaukee. Everything was “Seashells and balloons” for Al, who also thought winning was overrated (“The only time it is really important is in surgery and war”) and that the only mystery in life was “why the kamikaze pilots wore helmets.”

6. WALLACE BEATS IOWA FOR NORTHWESTERN … STATE

Northwestern University, the Big Ten school in Evanston, Ill., has never made the NCAA men’s tournament, though coach Chris Collins’ 22-10 Wildcats are expected to no matter what they do in the Big Ten Tournament this week in Washington, D.C. No, Northwestern has never danced in March but Northwestern State University, a 9,000-student school in Natchitoches, La., has. Indeed, the Demons probably did an Irish jig on St. Patrick’s Day in 2006 when Jermaine Wallace heaved up this “Novena” to help his 14th-seeded team beat second-seeded Iowa of the Big Ten, 64-63, in Denver. The Hawkeyes coach? Current UCLA head coach Steve Alford, who played on the 1987 championship team at Indiana for coach Bob Knight.

5. LAETTNER KOs PITINO’S WILDCATS FOR COACH K

Mike Krzyzewski, who played for and coached under Knight at Army and Indiana, has won five NCAA men’s basketball titles at Duke, the latest in 2015 when the Blue Demons ousted Wisconsin, 68-63, in the championship game at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium. The second title came in 1992 when Duke beat Indiana (coached by Knight) and Michigan (one of Steve Fisher’s Fab Five teams), 71-51, at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. But Duke doesn’t get to Minneapolis unless Christian Laettner makes this turnaround jumper in overtime to oust coach Rick Pitino and Kentucky, 104-103, at the East Regional final in Philadelphia.

4. BRYCE BEATS OLE MISS JUST AS FATHER HOMER DREW IT UP

Now the head basketball coach for Vanderbilt University, Drew hit this buzzer-beater for his alma mater, Valparaiso, which was coached by his father Homer (Bryce’s middle name). It helped the Crusaders win 70-69 against Mississippi in the 1998 tournament. Drew, who left Valparaiso for Vanderbilt, has the Commodores on the 68-team cutoff line to make “The Big Dance” this year, and wouldn’t it be ironic if Vandy draws powerhouse Baylor, coached by older brother Scott.

3. A FRESHMAN NAMED JORDAN BEATS THE HOYAS

Contrary to what you might believe, Michael Jordan didn’t hit this shot and turn professional. He was just a freshman when he launched this 16-footer with 15 seconds remaining that eventually was the winning basket in North Carolina’s 63-62 over favored Georgetown in the 1982 championship game at the Superdome in New Orleans. P.S. Jordan turned pro after his junior season with Dean Smith in 1984 and won gold for the U.S. in the Summer Olympics for Bob Knight before leading the Chicago Bulls, who drafted him No. 3, to six NBA titles. And the Portland Trail Blazers took Sam Bowie No. 2?

2. KEITH SMART MADE KNIGHT LOOK SMART FOR RECRUITING JUCOS

The season after “A Season on the Brink” (see below), Indiana beat Syracuse, 74-73, in the 1987 NCAA Championship Game at the Superdome in New Orleans with this 16-foot game-winner by Smart, one of the first junior college players ever recruited by Knight. The Indiana coach had decided to do so before Cleveland State knocked out the third-seeded Hoosiers in a 1986 first-round game.

1. VILLANOVA ANSWERS NORTH CAROLINA’S LAST-SECOND SHOT

It sure looked like North Carolina was headed to the ladders to cut down the nets last April 4 when Marcus Paige made an unbelievable 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds left. But senior Ryan Arcidiacono raced upcourt and passed to the trailing Kris Jenkins, whose 3-pointer at the buzzer helped Villanova’s Wildcats to a 77-74 victory over the Tar Heels before 74,340 at Houston’s NRG Stadium. Cameras caught Wright’s one-word reaction after the ball beat the buzzer: “Bang.”

AND THEN THERE’S BOB KNIGHT …
Here’s ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 sound bites through the years from Bob Knight when he was still coaching men’s basketball for Indiana and Texas Tech.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Onfzet1xxs

After all that, after he was fired at Indiana and retired at Texas Tech, ESPN hired Bob Knight as a color analyst.

My Bob Knight moment? It came during a dinner with some writing friends at Grimaldi’s Ristorante in Syracuse, N.Y., the night before Cinderella-story Cleveland State knocked No. 3 seed Indiana out of 1986 tournament in the first round with an 83-79 victory at the Carrier Dome.

One of the writers sharing our wonderful Italian bread was John Feinstein, who was spending that season with Knight’s Hoosiers chronicling their tumultuous season that became his book, “A Season on the Brink.” (Below is a picture of Feinstein, second from the left).

Knight came out of a backroom with his party, stopped at our table of Indiana-based reporters, saw Feinstein and said, “Why are you sitting and eating with these (sex-act deleted) (four-legged-animal/human-anatomy deleted)?”

Fortunately, I kept my appetite. I’ve never tasted better veal parmesan and angel-hair pasta since.

SEEMS LIKE ONLY YESTERDAY: THE ‘OLD’ MADISON SQUARE GARDEN

During the spring of 1967, my late father and I watched the New York Rangers play the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup semifinals there in seats (costing $1.50 each for Game 3 and $2.50 for Game 4) that Dad secured after standing in a line that went from the front entrance on Eighth Avenue to 50th Street, west on 50th Street to Ninth Avenue, south on Ninth Avenue to 49th Street, east on 49th Street to Eighth Avenue and finally north on Eighth Avenue to the ticket booth. By the way, the “Old” Garden was built in 249 days for $5.6 million and opened with a six-day bicycle race on Nov. 24, 1925.

It also was the site of this famous birthday on May 19, 1962:

THE ‘NEW’ MADISON SQUARE GARDEN TURNS 50 NEXT SEASON

The “new” Madison Square Garden, which sits over Penn Station, is actually the fourth Madison Square Garden in New York City. It opened Feb. 11, 1968 with the sold-out “Salute to the USO” hosted by Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, those old “Road” cronies.

As Bing might have said that night to Bob, “Here we go again, Junior.”

My New York Rangers played their first game there on Feb. 18, 1968 with a 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, who were in their initial NHL season after the league had expanded from its “Original Six” to 12 teams. Scoring the Rangers’ goals were Bob Nevin, Donnie Marshall and Orland Kurtenbach, the team’s enforcer and my mother’s favorite player.

EXODUS: REMEMBER, SOMEONE ONCE GAVE YOU A LIFT

Fortunately, Mom and Dad made sure I was housebroken.

Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad.