Tuesday, March 17th, 2009...1:03 am
The LittyHoops Family Welcomes You To Bracketville
Back in 1994, my dad innocently pulled me and Lisa out of school one afternoon and took us to the first round of the NCAA tournament at Nassau Coliseum. We didn’t really know what to expect, but the idea of going to watch basketball games instead of another afternoon of middle school sounded like a splendid idea.
It took Lisa and I less than a few hours of wondering around a sleepy half-full arena to fall in love with the tournament. We watched a #1 UCONN team featuring Donyell Marshall, Ray Allen and Doran Sheffer play a surprisingly close game to Rider (after meeting Rider all-star Charles Smith in the stands before the game!). We hung out with the dynamic Penn backcourt of Matt Maloney and Jerome Allen during the day and then watched their electric performance that night in upsetting Nebraska and their Polish Rifle Eric Piatkowski. We even got a cameo appearance of Yinka Dare and watched a Florida team (that would eventually make it to the Final Four) barely survive the regional behind a guy named D’meat Hook.
It took seven long years, but we finally made it back to the first round when the tournament returned to Nassau Coliseum in 2001. It was my sophomore year of college and I convinced Colby to come back to Long Island for the games. We watched a retarded Holy Cross center attempt free throws and spotted Tayshawn Prince at Roosevelt Field Mall.
In 2002, we really stepped up our game and planned a trip to Chicago with Colby, Brett and Weilgus and in which Lisa and Howie Hoops would meet up with us. We stayed in Colby’s grandparents house in Flossmore and even rendezvoused with the Roach Digga who was in town peddling forged Shannahan autographed 8″ by 10″s.
Since then it’s been a Litty family tradition (check out this AWESOME SPREADSHEET that Lisa created) to travel to a first round site every year including Indianapolis, Raleigh, Worcester, Philly, and Tampa. The one constant is Howie Hoops (it was almost Wally’s red highlighter) who is the only human to have made it to every single tournament (I missed 2004 when I was living in San Diego). In 2007, we were snowed out en route to Chicago and stranded on the LaGuardia runway for hours before our flight was eventually cancelled. The experience has left a dark mark over they year of 2007 for all of eternity.
This Thursday, the entire Litvack crew is heading down to Philly (with the Cohen clan) to continue the tradition. The teams and draw is questionable (UCONN and Nova yet again. Who cares about Morman and Aggies) but you never really know. Last year we went to Tampa not expecting much and history was made when all four lower seeded teams pulled off stunning first round upsets. At one point, I turned around to find a horrified look on Courtney’s face (a relative new-comer to the tradition) as she watched dad tell the Vanderbilt players to “go to hell” as they were jogging into the locker room at halftime against upstart #13 Siena.
This tournament tradition has turned into quite the main event in the LittyHoops household. Howie Hoops has been calculating the logistics (tickets, travel schedules, hotel reservations and hour by hour itinerary’s) for at least the last three months. It’s near impossible to have a full-fledged conversation with him without it drifting straight into tournament talk. My mom and Courtney now come to the tourney and sit through four full games even though they have no idea who’s playing!
This year has an added wrinkle in that Michigan plays on Thursday at the same time as the Philly games. In brainstorming possible solutions to not miss the game (watch in the hallway, hustle down to Chicky and Pete’s, etc) Lisa blurted out that she somehow knows the password to the Wachovia Center’s Wi-Fi signal. I’ve already secured a few iPhone’s and now have a technical solution that will rival my twitter updates for geekiest college basketball fan alive.
By the way, check out this video of Crisler Arena going bonkers after Michigan is announced in the field. I wish i was there!
Some Littyhoops Tourney Tidbits
Top 7 L-Hoops Tourney Highlights
#7 Florida Tuba Players and Creighton Upset
I’m not sure who spotted them (maybe Aaron) but the the Florida marching band had some of the fattest Tuba Players to ever blow a horn and it somehow initiated a massive laughing attack in my dad which than spread throughout all of us. It was the first game of the day and it set the tone for a miraculous comeback by Creighton which won on a a game winning three pointer in Double Overtime.
#6 Discovering Dwayne Wade
Travis Deiner was actually the star that weekend but Wade was so silky smooth and hit the clutch shot every time Marquette needed it. Nobody had any idea how great of a star Wade would become but looking back it’s great we had a chance to see him shine so early in his career.
#5 Courtney Sleeps!
This happened in Raleigh and I wasn’t there to witness it but rumor has it that Courtney fell asleep in Raleigh while Duke was playing! There is always a danger (in Mitch’s case a certainty) of falling asleep at some point during the day and it’s the easiest way to get banned and ridiculed for decades to come!
#5 Drew Nicholas Game-Winner!
We weren’t actually at this game. Instead we were watching it in some random hotel bar in Indianopolis. Nicholas hit the shot from the corner and Hillman went nuts running through the hotel bar and then the hotel lobby dopily running hunch-shouldered. The moment was so surreal that I’m still not sure if it was even real BRO.
#3 The Pauldings, Ricky Cleamons and Arthur Johnson
Quinn Snyder’s 2003 Missouri squad was a peculiar bunch that we got to know all two well over the course of a few days. We saw at least a dozen family members around the arena all in Ricky Paulding jersey’s throughout the week. Matt took a liking to a pudgy center named Arthur Johnson and we watched Ricky Clemons put on one of the worst individual performances in the history of the tournament. To this day I’m convinced the game was fixed and he was on the take. This theory has been strengthened now that Clemons is in jail!
#2 Sorrentine’s Prayer
This might be the #1 moment. The only problem is that I wasn’t there. I had rooted for Vermont all season but had to work that day. Lisa and Dad were in the tiny Worcester arena to see Coppenrath and Sorrentine take on the defending national champs. As legend goes, Lisa was going back and forth with a Syracuse fan all game. With time winding down in a close ball game, Sorrentine basically pulled up from half-court and swished a three to ice the game. The place went nuts and from my seat on Hillman’s couch I was jealous I wasn’t there!
#1 Upset City – Tampa
Last year, Tampa provided one of the greatest day of basketball watching one could ever imagine with two #12′s and two #13′s upsetting the favored teams. The Drake vs. Western Kentucky is the most thrilling fast-paced, momentum-turning game I’ve ever seen.