Schneidman: 4 days in St. Louis define the madness of March

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first_imgThe endless buffets, the hoards of reporters from across the country in one room, the excess of media availability and handful of NCAA-mandated rules were all far from what accompany a game in the Carrier Dome. They were all subplots to the madness.We witnessed firsthand arguably the biggest upset in Tournament history. We witnessed firsthand a shot that will be played on highlight reels for eternity. And while we were covering a team that most said didn’t even deserve to be in the Tournament that is now in the final 16, the biggest collapse in college basketball history and more hysteria, heroics and heartbreak spread across the country.And that’s just the first four days of the most entertaining three weeks in sports. There were veterans in St. Louis, reporters that acted like they’d seen it endless times before and they probably had. But for those who hadn’t, it now makes sense why this is called March Madness.Matt Schneidman is the Sports Editor at The Daily Orange, where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at [email protected] or @mattschneidman. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on March 21, 2016 at 10:08 pmcenter_img ST. LOUIS — On one screen, No. 11 seed Northern Iowa pulled away from third-seeded Texas A&M in the second half, all but etching its place as the third double-digit seed in the Sweet 16. Around the other, a cluster of reporters gathered to watch a delayed feed of the Xavier-Wisconsin game taking place right outside the media workroom at the Scottrade Center.My beat partner Jesse Dougherty and I were both fine-tuning our sidebars off Syracuse’s 25-point thrashing of Middle Tennessee State that ended some two hours prior. We were on deadline, but the group gathered around the TV slowly grew.I hopped up from my chair and saw Wisconsin point guard Bronson Koenig bringing the ball up the court with the Badgers down 63-60 and less than 15 seconds left. A deafening roar flooded from the arena into the back room while Koenig still dribbled atop the key on the screen. Sure enough, seconds later, he sunk a 3-pointer to tie the game against the second-seeded Musketeers with 11.7 seconds remaining.The deadline for our stories wasn’t too far from then, but we had to see the finish. Jesse was reluctant, his Tyler Lydon story closer to completion than mine on Tyler Roberson, but he gave in and we briskly walked around the corner and through the tunnel the teams ran through. We were instructed to watch the game with our backs against a wall so as to clear a path through the tunnel, so tip-toes were necessary to see the action.First Xavier’s Edmond Sumner was called for an offensive foul with five seconds left. Then Wisconsin inbounded the ball and called timeout with exactly two seconds on the clock as it crossed half court. A nearby arena staff member informed us that Northern Iowa and Texas A&M were in double overtime. Wait? UNI led by 12 with 44 seconds left. We were about to watch arguably the best finish of the NCAA Tournament, and we were missing a potentially monumental collapse at the same time.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWe couldn’t see the players’ lower halves from our vantage point, but we were roughly 10 yards away from the nearest corner behind the 3-point line. Koenig caught the inbounds pass, secluded himself to that corner and hoisted a fadeaway 3. It didn’t even touch the rim as it dropped through the net. Koenig raised his arms and let out a yell that was drowned out by the pro-Wisconsin crowd. Staffers sprinted past us into the tunnel to begin postgame preparations. The Badgers’ bench lifted its hero in the air feet away from where we stood, Jesse’s face expressionless for a good minute before I reminded him we had stories to finish and we jogged back to our computers.And then we found out the Aggies had won. Within minutes, a buzzer-beating 3 to upset a No. 2 seed and the worst collapse in college basketball history by the Tournament’s potential Cinderella.This whole sequence, the 500 or so words preceding this sentence, spanned about 15 minutes. We spent four days in St. Louis and the madness, the same one that perfectly typifies the more common name for the NCAA Tournament, March Madness, was captured in our last hour of the 96 or so we spent half way across the country this weekend.Two days prior, Jesse and I were watching the last three games of the night, Michigan-Notre Dame, Texas-Northern Iowa and Cincinnati-St. Joseph’s. The first was tied, but the Fighting Irish pulled away for a seven-point win. Then Jesse fell asleep. With less than 20 seconds left in the second game, I pestered him until he woke up. Then Paul Jesperson etched his name in NCAA Tournament lore with a banked-in halfcourt buzzer-beater to win by three and Jesse propped himself up with his elbow, the same expressionless awe on his face.We flipped the channel seconds later, and Isaiah Miles hit a 3 to put St. Joe’s up two. Cincy stormed down the court and Octavius Ellis tied the game with a dunk at the buzzer. Or did he? The refs reviewed and ruled it no basket. Madness in less than a minute and we were lucky since I had memorized the four Missouri channel numbers that Tournament games were played on — CBS was 4, TNT 56, TBS 57 and TruTV 80.In less than 24 hours, the Orange would face off against America’s new favorite team. I watched Middle Tennessee State knock off perennial national champion Michigan State, again abandoning my story to hopefully witness history. I did that, and then saw Tom Izzo and Denzel Valentine pass by inches away, and minutes later each tear up at the podium.last_img

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