Lessons Learned From Nashville’s Opening Day

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On one side of Bridgestone Arena late Thursday afternoon, dozens of St. Bonaventure students sat in sobbing solitude. On the opposite end, a section of Florida State fans came to a crescendo and extended their arms in the traditional “tomahawk chop” motion.

The game had been over for a full 10 seconds. St. Bonaventure lost 66-63. It ended with a missed floater in the lane, a blocked put back attempt, and a slaughtered Cinderella dream.
Such are the lessons of March, the only time where magic can turn tragic in the blink of an eye. Here are some musings from the early action in Nashville.

March Cladness- Cincinnati sported a new look from Adidas that consisted of grey tank tops and grey shorts with neon red (almost pink) lettering. It seems like Adidas is pushing a soccer style neon look into their basketball line as Baylor rocked a highlighter green getup from the apparel company last night. One thing was apparent the instant the warm-ups came off for the Bearcats, though. The best (or worst) designers in the world can’t make 6-foot-9 260-pound Cincy center Yancy Gates look softer.

Not to be outdone in the clothing world was Russell Athletic, who scored some invaluable publicity by outfitting Ohio and 15th-seeded Norfolk State who both made headlines upsetting higher seeds. At this rate, we might see those little capital “Rs” springing up around Europe. Maybe they will make it to New York for fashion week. At the very least we should get something to put on their website that is better than Colt McCoy looking wistfully into the distance as he holds a broomstick on his back.

March Sadness- St. Bonaventure’s head coach Mark Schmidt gave a spirited post-game press conference where he referred to star forward Andrew Nicholson (20 points in the loss) as his and the program’s “everything.” He proceeded with a chilling soliloquy about how Nicholson brought the Bonnies program back from the dead. Then, he matched the emotion of the Bonnies’ student fan base in praising the family-type atmosphere the school and the community adopts for basketball season. It was the kind of raw, chilling emotion that no other month can bring to college basketball.

March Badness- Texas went on an absolutely abhorrent stretch to begin play in Nashville. They mustered a measly two points in the game’s first 12 minutes. Free throws drew more iron than a Red Cross nurse. Driving floaters wouldn’t stop floating. They almost had to put “handle with care” labels all over the backboard because so many jumpers were banging off the glass.

By the end of the half the Longhorns were a cool 16 percent from the field, and their fans were napping, knitting, and doing anything they could to avoid watching the debacle. I even think I saw a few paying bills and doing their taxes.

Then, as well coached and talented teams sometimes do, they went on a tear in the second half. They obliterated a 19-point deficit and brought the game to a 52-52 tie late before losing in the final minutes to Cincy. Such. Is. March.

March Gradness- Michigan’s Stu Douglass and Zack Novak. Texas’ Clint Chapman. St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson. All had to sit through their last press conferences as college athletes yesterday. Tears were a given. The raw emotion was palpable. March also serves as a cruel reminder of how much these guys put in to get there and how quickly it can be taken away.

March Dadness- Ohio fans taunted Michigan guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. with “Who’s your daddy?” chants when he was at the free throw line last night. As the son of the former NBA all star (Tim Hardaway, Sr.), it is clear that fans and the media have beaten this story so far into the ground that it is hardly a nuisance anymore.

It must have been quite the icebreaker for him and Ohio guard Nick Kellogg who endures similar attention and/or ridicule for being the son of broadcaster and former player Clark Kellogg. It is another example of how menacing March can be. The ridicule is coming over something these gus have literally no control over.

March Fadness- Friday's trend in Nashville was a weird one. The staff in charge of wiping the sweat off the floors appeared lackadaisical at times, and it became apparent early and often that such slacking would not suffice in March. Early and often game officials were trading in the striped stereotypes for a blue-collar look, spending timeouts scrubbing down the floor. A Cincinnati cheerleader joined in on the action, and a couple Florida State forwards could have passed for the Pine Sol lady late in the second half of their game.

March Gladness- The winners of the day were not as joyful as most would expect in March. Cincinnati escaped a near disaster against Texas, and Florida State’s win had a similar ring to it. They were happy but more or less relieved. Ohio and South Florida took a more workmanlike approach to celebrating. They were two teams with something to prove. They were on a mission to take their programs to another level.

March Madness- The lessons of March were neck-deep in Nashville on Friday. To think that this happens in seven other venues in the same weekend is absurd. It is insane. Honestly, the masses could not put it better. It’s madness.