Eric checking in the morning after the return from Buffalo. On the tournament and road experiences:
The year after George Mason, there will officially be no George Mason. No double-digit seed has advanced to the Sweet 16. Butler doesn't qualify as a potential Mason, and neither does Southern Illinois, both have been legit all season.
There is a possibility that there is another 2006 Florida lurking out there. The Gators were not ranked in the preseason poll last year and wound up winning the title. If my math is correct, six teams still are alive that were not ranked in the preseason poll. Oregon or USC could be this year's Florida.
This was the year of the freshman because of the age restriction, but many of the best college rookies are already done. Kevin Durant. Chase Budinger. Spencer Hawes. Thaddeus Young/Crittenton. Stephen Curry. Scottie Reynolds.
I still felt Maryland would win the game entering the final minute. The charge call on DJ changed everything. Butler finally played like it was November 2006. We're down to one ACC team left, which is fitting because UNC looked like the only true national contender from the conference all season. I feel for the writer who had a laptop ruined by Boom Osby's foot during the game and the writer who had a parking pass confiscated by another writer late afternoon, forcing the coat-less writer into the cold, dark, dank, dangerous streets around midnight trying to find his way back to the sad-sack hotel.
As for Buffalo, the people were nice enough, the food was pretty good, the hotel was a cement mattress, the weather was beyond grisly. The nights I went out, I rated an 8 out of 10. Someone else in my eclectic party gave a score of 1, so tastes vary. Chippewa Street was the best place to go in Buffalo, and I again thank all who emailed suggestions. Over the course of the week, my cross-country contingent and I braved the rain and snow to visit Crocodile, Club or Planet Zero (can't remember name), and festive Buckin Buffalo or something that we turned from a country joint into a old-school hip-hop haven, at least for 5 minutes. Zero had potential but the music could have been better. Everything was good except for the fact that a self-described "chaperone" informed me that my "histrionics were juvenile," which was probably why the individual's presence was required in the first place. I believe I signed one of those confidentiality sheets like they give on Survivor, so what happens in B-Lo, stays in B-Lo.
2007 March Madness Road Trip Grades
(criteria includes basketball, food/entertainment, hotel, weather, intangibles/X-factors, off-court adversity, strength of schedule and RPI)
St. Louis TBD
On to St. Louis, where Butler will have to play a perfect game to stay with Florida. If anyone has any restaurant/entertainment suggestions for St. Louis, please chime in ASAP. I enjoyed the 2005 Final Four there, for the most part.