Wow, what a weekend. Thursday night I had a bunch of guys over to my apartment to watch NCAA games on the four televisions in my living room. Friday morning I headed to Madison to start watching high school games, and stuck around though Saturday taking in college games on TV along the way. I attended eight high school games in person, saw an incredible amount of basketball on television, and generally lived an unhealthy lifestyle based heavily in beer and pizza. The bulk of the notable viewing ended around 11:30pm on Saturday, but there was still something to be seen on Sunday. In short, it was heaven.
Because I saw so much, and because I'm generally pretty long-winded, I could probably pump out about 40 pages of material based on this weekend. Instead, since the two teams that I have been following most closely this year, Wisconsin and UW-Milwaukee are in the Sweet Sixteen, I'm going to take it easy on recounting the weekend and let tidbits seep out over time. Wisconsin is still my favorite team, since I did go to school there, but UW-Milwaukee is really the fun story of the weekend. There are about 500 interesting storylines regarding Illinois-UWM, so it could be a fun week. Anyway, here are a few quick thoughts from the weekend.
1) Bar none, the best player at the Wisconsin state high school championships was Wesley Matthews. He was simply unbelievable, coming up with clutch shots and steals play after play. Marquette fans had to be salivating over this young man, since he'll be playing there next year. For a team that needs immediate help, it certainly can't hurt to have an athletic guard with a college-ready body coming in. I saw Matthews earlier in the year at a holiday tournament, and he was nothing like this, so he's come along nicely. Maybe the lofty expectations for Marquette's incoming class are justified this year.
2) Congrats to UW-Stevens Point for taking home a second consecutive division 3 championship. I only saw the Pointers play twice this season, and I never particularly felt like I was in the presence of greatness, but Jack Bennett must really be doing some great things with his boys. As if we needed more to get excited about in Wisconsin right now.
3) UWM’s in the sweet sixteen? Really? Wow. I would have been plenty happy just with the win over Alabama, but to take out Boston College was particularly impressive. Boston College showed in the first half of that game the textbook way to lose to the Panthers, as they fell right into UWM’s pressure defense and ended up running around frantically more often than not. Good adjustments were made in the second half, but BC never quite got over the hump. And I’m happy now, since I have one more game of supreme significance to watch next weekend.
4) Again this year, the high school championships went deep with talented teams, and I’m still not sure which championship team is the best. This idea is particularly well-illustrated by the fact that division 3 champ Whitefish Bay Dominican actually beat division 1 champ Madison Memorial earlier this year. If pressed, I’d still say that Memorial had improved to the point where it was the best team, but I’m not positive, and that’s more than I can say about some years.
5) One of the bizarre highlights of the weekend came late Friday night over beers with some friends. The topic of fan behavior at the high school games came up, and I actually learned something. Earlier in the day, my friends and I sat puzzled as one student section at the tournament randomly began chanting “USA! USA! USA!” Given that I had not heard about Oshkosh being invaded by communists, this display of patriotism was confusing. Patriotism it was not, however, as the high school administrator among us, our friend Boo-Yah, explained that night that “USA!” was merely a covert way of saying “You suck ass.” I think this officially means that youth culture has passed me by, though I can still take some pride in the fact that our friend Steve tipped me off that some of my early-season comments about The Big Shocker led to him educating the WIAA on the possible offensiveness of this item. Apparently, it also led to a lot of laughter, as well, once they found out why this was offensive.
6) I’m not sure where Zach Morley has been all season for Wisconsin, but it’s sure nice that he’s playing like he did last year for the Badgers now that they’re into the stretch run. An array of upsets have set the Badgers up nicely so far, but we’ll see how far they can go with two ACC teams in their path.
7) Anyone who didn’t see the end of the Wake Forest-West Virginia game on Saturday night missed out big time. Players were fouling out left and right. Mike Gansey had as hot a shooting hand as I’ve seen recently. Kevin Pittsnogle was generally looking like everything that a stereotypical West Virginia native should. Double overtime! This game led to my friend T.J. giving one of the most impressive waiting-to-go-home-to-the-wife performances that I’ve seen in NCAA history. I kind of felt bad, since I’m sure T.J. wanted to leave, but watching a game this good is sort of like a moral obligation. He, my friend Kevin and I all pretty much wanted to go to sleep, but none of us could leave the couch until the game was decided.
There’s so much more to be said, but like I said, we’ll let them trickle out this week. For the meantime, let’s just sit back and realize how great a time it is to be a basketball fan in Wisconsin. Wisconsin and UW-Milwaukee are in the Sweet Sixteen. Marquette, though down right now, has a player who put up perhaps the best state tournament performance that I’ve ever seen coming to school next year. UW-Green Bay has a recruiting class better than has ever been seen in Green Bay. The division 3 champs reside in Stevens Point. Life couldn’t get much better for a fan.