Hoops all day: An inside look at the Raleigh bracket

Ken Cross

March 23, 2014 at 3:12 pm.

Mar 21, 2014; Raleigh, NC, USA; Virginia Cavaliers forward Anthony Gill (13) celebrates with forward Evan Nolte (11) and guard Malcolm Brogdon (15) against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers in the second half of a men's college basketball game during the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at PNC Arena. Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Here in Raleigh, N.C., you have your usual pair of ACC hosts, only Virginia is the different entry this time around.  Of course, Duke is here to excite the masses and literally give everybody not associated with the university an actual rooting interest.  This is a log of my day which began with a 7 a.m. wake up call and a two-hours-and-a-half drive to PNC Arena and Rounds 2 and 3.

10:35 a.m. – I arrived in the parking lot only to find Dick Vitale’s excessive blathering across the parking lot on a microphone system.  He’s lamenting how unbelievable it is that Dayton beat Ohio State yesterday.  Not really, “Dukie V”!

10:50 am – I went down to the media room for the obligatory partaking of all of the game notes and yearbooks you can carry.  I download most of this stuff on my iPad.  Less and less of these publications are printed every year.

11:15 am – Found my seat in the hockey seats high atop PNC Arena.  I should have actually gone to Orlando had I known I was this far off the court.  Watching basketball from hockey seats is ridiculous.  You can’t tell who the players are and quite frankly, the NCAA should totally think twice before allowing N.C.State to host this again.  It’s a lack of care, planning, preparation on their part to put the media in a position where they can’t see or really even hear what is going on.  Looks like I am going to spend the day and night roving all over the arena.  Ideally, a stage is built on one side of the court to afford all of the media court side seats.  That is how they did this here in 2008.

11:40 am – There is actually an announcement against sports wagering by the NCAA.  This is too funny!!!  Ok, everybody tear up your brackets and act like you didn’t play that pool.  Then some suit comes on the public address and says it “jeopardizes the well being of the student athlete.”  Now, I AM laughing out loud.

12:15 –  I am set for action in Raleigh! I moved down to near the Mercer section where I could see the game. Bears have wins over Ole Miss and Seton Hall. Maybe they’re a threat here.

12:30 – Mercer draws first lead at 12-9 on three free throws by Langston Hall.

12:51- Krzyzewski’s wife and daughter look bored. So to percolate things, they start screaming and berating the officials on an obvious Duke foul on a rebound. They learned from the best.

12:54 – Duke leads 30-23. The three-ball is their game. They have seven already, four from Rasheed Suliamon.

1:00 – Duke time out! Only up 30-27! Does anybody realize Mercer coach Bob Hoffman has 500- plus wins, led the Bears to the Tournament championship in 2012, and is the 2-time defending A-Sun Coach if the Year? He has a pedigree too!

1:10 – Mercer went ahead 34-33 on a triple by Jakob Gallon before Jabari Parker gave the Blue Devils a 35-34 halftime lead. Bears shot 52.4 percent in the first half, but missed a lot of chip-shots.

1:28 -A Duke fan in front of me is incensed with Amile Jefferson’s two turnovers in a row. Only time he has said anything all day.

1:34 – First media timeout and the Bears have claimed a 43-40 lead. Daniel Coursey totally outplaying Duke’s big men right now!

1:40 – Duke sidewalk alumni in full force. Rumor has it all the Wal-Marts in the area are fresh out of Duke t-shirts.

1:43 – Mercer starts five seniors, so they’re undaunted. I am sitting here hoping the whistles are fair down the stretch.

1:51 – Quinn Cook nails Dukes 13th three of the day, but the Blue Devils still only have a 54-51 lead at 9:05.

1:59 – A late whistle puts Duke’s Quinn Cook on the line and he makes all three. 63-58, Duke.

2:05  – Mercer has played a gritty game and fought Duke tooth-and-nail. The Bears are down 63-60, but have the ball.  The crowd is clearly pro-Mercer even though we are just a few miles from the Duke campus.

2:08 – Anthony White, Jr. nails a three to tie this at 63 with 2:33 left. Krzyzewski immediately calls time out.

2:19 – Mercer ready for another shocker. Bears on a 13-3 run and lead Duke 73-68 with 22.8 seconds left! Seven points for White in the run!

2:25 – The Bears pull it off as Duke goes down in flames! Bears a relaxed confident bunch after visiting locker room! Not by any means through!

2:28 – Some random fan yells, “the mafia has been sent out of town.”

2:35 – No one here in PNC is sorry Duke lost to Mercer except a smattering of Duke fans! They truly are the New York Yankees of college hoops – you love them or you hate them!

3:10 – Underway with Tennessee leading UMass, 8-4. Vols looking to push the issue early. Key is establishing boxes!

3:19 – Timeouts are too long. Everything eventually sells out to cash! CBS has too much of a stake and a “say so” in how this tournament is seeded and how it is run.  No wonder there are so many conspiracy theorists.

3:25 – Tennessee impressive in taking a 21-10 lead. The Vols have held UMass superstar Chaz WIlliams to one shot so far!

3:40 – Ultimate highlight: Jordan McRae on the jam on a run out from Darius Thompson. This, off a UMass turnover! Minutemen look outmanned!

3:49 – McRae unguardable for the Minutemen…He nails a 3 right before halftime as the Vols take a 41-22 lead to the break.

4:05 – Volunteers return to the floor out of half time…”Good ole Rocky Top, Rocky Top, Tennessee….” You get the picture. Pep band in action!

4:16 – UMass gets the quick run out of halftime as Derrick Gordon fuels four of six points. Tennessee turns the Minutemen back with that stellar defense that they play. An unbelievable block at the rim by Josh Richardson on Gordon.

4:24 – Minutemen finally getting into the game, scoring on four straight trips with 2 threes from Sampson Carter! Vols answer with scores vs. UMass press by Stokes and Maymon.

4:44 – Stokes and Maymon both check in with a double-double. Tennessee up 67-44, 8:24 as Stokes has 19/12; Maymon 11/11. Jordan McRae leads all scorers with 21.

5:10 – Volunteers are on a roll, winning seven of last eight and playing their best and most consistent basketball of the season.  They are a tough out!

6:55 – Memphis vs George Washington tips. Through the first 7:30, it’s apparent these 2 teams are better than UMass. It further casts appall on the way this tournament was seeded.

7:04 – Chris Crawford from Memphis nails back to back threes as the Tigers look like they have reinvented their mentality.

7:07 – GW’ s Isaiah Armwood is one of the most athletic big men I have seen.  Amazes me how kids like this never get any national love.  It is always the same teams that pick this up.

7:15 – Tigers are noticeably quicker. Defections and hands on the ball when it’s in a Colonial’s hand.

7:29 – Pace is my thing.  The faster, the better in hoops as well as football. Great pace here as both of these squad are shooting in the mid-50s.

7:42 – GW can exploit a mismatch with Austin Nichols of Memphis vs. Armwood. He’s a superior athlete at 6-9, 208. Armwood shoots 48% from the floor and is the Colonials’ leading rebounder.

8:12 – Hard to believe Memphis is 11-of-31 and still leading this game.

8:22 – Memphis dance team is totally awesome! More moves than Joe Jackson off the speed dribble!

8:31 – Tigers accentuating the offense scoring on 11 of first 12 second half possessions.  When Jackson, Crawford, and Company get in transition, they are going to outrun anybody on any court anywhere.  KIller Speed!

8:42 – Did I say Isaiah Armwood is underrated nationally? yeah I think I did!  He has 21 points here and is 9 of 12 from the floor.

9:01 – GW leading scorer Maurice Creek is sighted.  He nails a three and cuts it to 64-60 with 2:56 remaining.  Creek is only 2-of-10 with seven points.

9:17 – Michael Dixon sinks four huge free throws in the last 9.6 seconds and the Memphis Tigers hold off GW, 71-66.

9:21 – I talked to Josh Pastner, the Memphis coach, after the game. He’s as cool as I thought he would be.  First time I have met him.

9:25 – Watching the Virginia Cavaliers warm up for the last game of the day.  They won the ACC regular season, the ACC Tournament, and now they are a number one seed all the same year.  Maybe they should erect a statue of Tony Bennett in front of the John Paul Jones Arena.

9:30 – Sitting beside Virginia Sports Information Director, Jim Davies. He’s a stand up dude!

9:56 – Coastal Carolina and veteran coach Cliff Ellis were ready to go from the tip.  Chanticleers are a confident group against a Virginia team that is more athletic maybe than they get credit for.

10:06 – Virginia has too much power inside.  Key for Coastal Carolina is the 3-ball from Badou Diagne and Elijah Harris.  A loud, raucous group of Chanticleers here from Myrtle Beach.

10:20 – Virginia goes from 12:50 to 1:51 with only one field goal as Anthony Gill scored and made a free throw to break that run.

10:44 – We get to halftime and Coastal Carolina is leading Virginia, 35-30. I am just thinking about that a 16-seed has never beaten a 1-seed.  So many poor seedings in this tournament, it makes me think Rick Pitino was right when he wanted to know if “soccer ADs” put this tournament together.

11:12 – Tony Bennett may have had a not-so-savory word with the Cavaliers at the break.  Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill spark a quick 9-3 run for a 39-38 lead – The first since 17-14.

11:24 – Bad foul on Josh Cameron of Coastal Carolina.  London Perrantes beat him off a screen.  He flew at him and fouled him on the three.  Virginia went up for good at 50-47 on the three free throws.

11:35 – The Cavaliers get eight points from Evan Nolte, who averages 9.9 minutes per game.  He also starts a 9-2 run that gives Virginia a late 65-52 run and buries a very good basketball team in Coastal Carolina.

11:45 – Time to go write some articles! Good might!