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March 20, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Thursday, March 20th, 2003

by Brian Seymour

On a day when the thoughts of a nation should be on the greatest annual sports tournament in the world, instead we think about our armed forces waging war in a faraway land.

If you’re like me and you have friends and family who serve in our military, it’s hard to give sports — even an event as great as the NCAA Tournament — much more than a passing thought.

It’s doubly affecting for me since it tempers the excitement I feel having my alma mater — Central Michigan — in the tournament for the first time in 16 years. One of my best friends from CMU is PFC Dereck J. Cram, who serves in the Army Reserves and who is currently stationed in Kuwait (and quite possibly making his way into Iraq).

Dereck isn’t much of a basketball fan. I was never able to drag him to any Central games at Rose Arena. (In Dereck’s defense, the Chippewas certainly did suck in our time there).

In any event, the games are scheduled to go on today and that’s a good thing. It’s important to have diversions and basketball is as good as any. But while you’re watching the games today (and believe me, I’ll be watching along with you), I wouldn’t mind you giving a quick thought to my friend Dereck and all our other soldiers in harm’s way, especially during the Central Michigan-Creighton game tonight.

Even though he’s not a big hoops fan, I’m sure he’ll appreciate it.

Side Dishes

CBS reaches deal with ESPN networks: There’s a very good chance that war coverage will pre-empt CBS’ coverage of the NCAA Tournament, so if it does the first place to check will be ESPN or ESPN2.

The ESPN networks reached an agreement Wednesday to show several first-round games on Thursday and Friday, though the coverage for the second round if CBS is still unable to show those games could be all over the place because of ESPN’s commitment to show the women’s tournament. CBS will also have the option of showing games on TNN and TV Land, other networks owned by Viacom, the parent company of CBS.

Johnsen out for tourney: The bout of mononucleosis which sidelined Utah’s Britton Johnsen for the Mountain West tournament will also keep him out of the NCAA Tournament. Utah’s team physician didn’t clear the forward to play and he didn’t accompany the team to Nashville, Tenn. for the Utes’ first round contest against Oregon. Johnsen averages 11.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.

Catamounts arrive late: An extremely potent blizzard stranded Vermont’s basketball team in Denver as the Catamounts were en route to the West Regional in Salt Lake City.

The team’s journey began in Burlington, Vt. on Tuesday, but after arriving in Denver their connecting flight to Salt Lake City was cancelled because of the weather. The NCAA arranged for a hotel in the Denver area (an impressive feat — if you’ve never been stranded in a strange city because of weather consider yourself lucky, hundreds of people had to sleep on the airport’s floor).

The Catamounts then travelled by bus Wednesday morning, an arduous journey over snowy road to Colorado Springs, where they were schedule to get an 8:20 p.m. (MST) flight to Salt Lake City. The Catamounts will arrive with only enough time to catch a few hours of sleep before facing Arizona later today.

The snow storm, which also caused the postponement of an NIT game between Eastern Washington and Wyoming, also threw a wrench into Colorado’s travel plans. The Buffaloes had to scramble to make arrangements which will put them in Tampa today, only a day before their first round battle with Michigan State.

The weather also impacted the travel plans for Central Michigan and Creighton’s travelling parties to Salt Lake City, though none as severe as the Catamounts.

NIT roundup: There’s two schools of thought when dealing with a team passed over by the NCAA Tournament for the NIT. Some teams will use it as fire to show the selection committee the mistake they made. Other teams will just go in the tank. Seton Hall looked like the former for most of its contest Wednesday against Rhode Island, but ended up the latter after a furious Ram comeback gave URI a 61-60 win over the Pirates (17-13). A 3-pointer by Dawan Robinson with 4.1 seconds left pushed the Rams (20-10) over the top.

Other results included Georgia Tech over Ohio State, 72-58; College of Charleston defeating Kent State, 71-66; Western Michigan narrowly over Illinois (Chicago), 63-62; Virginia trouncing Brown, 89-73; Providence over Richmond, 67-49; St. John’s beating Boston U, 62-57; UAB nipping La.-Lafayette, 82-80; Iowa State over Wichita State, 76-65; Minnesota handling Saint Louis, 62-52; Texas Tech handling Nevada, 66-54; San Diego State needed overtime to upend UC-Santa Barbara, 67-62; and Hawaii beat UNLV 85-68.

Tonight’s Menu

I don’t need to tell you the tournament kicks off today with 16 first-round games from sites around the nation. Rather than just list them all here, I’ll give you my picks for which games are likely to be the most interesting.

• The No. 8 vs. No. 9 games are usually a letdown, but I have a feeling the West region contest between No. 8 Cincinnati and No. 9 Gonzaga at 12:40 p.m. (EST) ought to be a doozy.

• In the Midwest region, the contest between No. 6 Missouri and No. 11 Southern Illinois is also a border contest in addition to a great matchup. The two campuses are separated by only about four hours. Tipoff is 2:40 p.m. (EST).

• A lot of folks (myself included) think No. 5 Wisconsin is ripe for an upset at the hands of No. 12 Weber State in a Midwest region contest at 7:25 p.m. (EST)

• Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the West region contest between No. 6 Creighton and No. 11 Central Michigan. Aside from CMU being my alma mater, this game should be a good one, especially if you like great long-range shooting. That contest is at 7:20 p.m. (EST).

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