Friday, March 16, 2007

Andrew's report on NCAA Buffalo - Round 1 Thursday

Check out this billboard along the Kensington Expressway, which was along the travel route for the Wright State Raiders from their headquarters hotel at the Holiday Inn-Airport.

Some very buxom revelers greeted our group at the door to Fat Bob's as we made our way inside for barbecue and libations between the two sessions.

Check out the packed house of almost 19,000 fans. Many were on their feet cheering as the VCU celebration unfolds down on the court.

I had the time of my life.

What can be better than getting together with a group of good friends, a bunch of true sports guys, and sharing a full day of NCAA basketball? That was the case yesterday at HSBC Arena, as the sub-regionals came back to Buffalo for the first time since 2004.

Participating in our gang was myself and Peter; Peter's brother and dad John Sr and John Jr; Our buddies Bill Zilliox and Chris Mach; and the Toronto group - Alan Bossin, Ephraim Fiksel and Harold Cares. We managed to organize some great club seats, got ourselves a dinner reservation at Fab Bob's in Allentown for between sessions, Pete organized the pools. It was all good.

The highlight of the four games we saw, and making national headlines, was Duke's upset loss at the hands of Virginia Commonwealth. Now granted, the Blue Devils aren't the force they were when guys like Boozer, Duhon, Battier and Redick held sway. But they are still a force, and when you play them, you're playing against a mystique.

It all came down to the final minute, and a sophomore guard for VCU named Eric Maynor was absolutely filthy, taking the ball down the court himself and nailing clutch buckets. When Duke tied it with 8 seconds left, Maynor waved off any thoughts of a time out, running down the court and hitting a 17 foot jumper with 1.8 seconds to go. The crowd went wild! And this time, Kryzooski didn't have any horseshoes left up his ass. Final score VCU 79, Duke 77.

Off the court - Much of the problem from 2004 centered around the difficulty fans had finding restaurants, eateries, bars or other places to hang out between sessions. Well this time Buffalo was ready! Metro rail and shuttle busses were lined up outside the front door to ferry people throughout downtown. Many restauranteurs were promoting their establishments, and Organizing Committee volunteers were passing out maps and offering directions. We ended up taking the Metro rail to Allentown and enjoying dinner at Fat Bob's on Virginia Place. Reservation for 11 and our table was waiting! And after dinner we just walked back to the arena... yeah it's almost 2 miles but it was a nice day and we had the stamina and a chance to walk off some the big meal we had just enjoyed.

It was great seeing all the people on the streets of downtown Buffalo. Great but also sad. For a shining few days, we get to feel and experience what a bustling and electric city should feel like. Come Monday it will be back to silent echoes down the vehicle-less Main street, and tumbleweeds bouncing down the light rail tracks.

As the night wore on and the finale of the evening became more and more of a laugher (Pitt v Wright State), one by one the group bailed - first the Toronto guys, then John and John Jr (all had long rides to their comfy beds), then Billy Z. But Peter, Chris and I made it to the bitter end.

As we left the already much empty arena, we bid the security guy at the door a good night and said "see you tomorrow". He replied "you mean Saturday". Yes... but tomorrow is Saturday... the clock read 12:20 AM and it was Friday morning; we had been at the arena and around downtown for 13 hours.

And best of all, we do it all again Saturday - two games starting at 3:20PM; we should be out by 8PM and an evening of St. Patty's Day revelry then awaits.

Yes, the time of my life!

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