Seems like all my favorite college hoops teams are playing in tournaments.
Harvard’s Crimson go up against Appalachian State tonight in the CIT.
UCSB’s Gauchos are the 15th seed in the NCAA Men’s Midwest bracket, a checkbox win for #2 seed Ohio State on Friday night.
The Quakers of my alma mater, Guilford College, are back in the Final Four of the NCAA’s Division III, after polishing off Eastern Mennonite. They take on Williams Friday afternoon. Have a bunch of friends with Williams connections too.
My long-time fave Division I team, Duke, is the top seed in the NCAA South bracket. They play a team whose jerseys say ARPB, before facing the winner of the Cal-Louisville game. My daughter and a bunch of neices and nephews are Cal grads, so I’ll be rooting for them, should they survive.
I was Knicks fan growing up, but I didn’t follow basketball much until I went to Guilford in 1965. North Carolina is basketball country in any case, and somehow I got into playing it as well there. Nothing serious, just pick-up intramural ball. My whole game was shooting long-range bombers, and I lacked all the other skills (dribbling, passing) one expects to go with that one. But at least I wasn’t taken last when teams were chosen, which for me was exceptionally positive feedback.
As it happened Guilford also had damn fine basketball teams the whole time I was there. They were often ranked #1 in the NAIA, and in ’68 (a year they lost in the finals to Oshkosh State) they graduated three players into the NBA. The best of those was Bob Kauffman, the #3 pick in the draft that year. Bob went on to become a 3-time All-Star, and then the head coach and general manager of the Detroit Pistons. He completed that career by making the mistake of giving Dick Vitale the head coaching job. In 1975 Guilford won the NAIA tournament with a team that included World B. Free and M.L. Carr.
My Division I sympathies were originally with Wake Forest (also in the NCAAs) since my entire coterie of North Carolina relatives were affiliated in one way or another with the school. When I moved to Chapel Hill after college, however, I became a Carolina fan. I still am. (Wake too.) But my overriding affection for Duke was born at the first pre-season game of the 1977-78 season. That was when freshmen Kenny Dennard and Gene Banks joined Jim Spanarkel, Mike Gminski and Johny Harrell to turn a has-been team into what would become the powerhouse it has been ever since.
But I didn’t know that then. I was working on the Duke campus in the Fall of ’77 at the time, and was invited to that game (against St. Francis Xavier) by David Hodskins, who would become my business partner for most of the following two decades. David was a Duke grad with season tickets to games at the very intense Cameron Indoor Stadium. I was his date for many of those games over many years, and couldn’t help getting into the team.
While Duke had good years during Vic Bubas‘ tenure as coach back in the 1960s, it had been nowhere for most the decade that followed. In those days, as the UCLA dynasty (the biggest ever, never to be repeated), NC State, Maryland and Carolina were the cream of the ACC. Duke joined that elite with what John Feinstein (another Duke grad) called Forever’s Team: the 1977-78 crew I saw play that pre-season game. Now people say, “How can you like an overdog like Duke?” Sorry, can’t help it. My experience as a Duke fan also prepped me for following Tommy Amaker, now the coach here at Harvard. (Tommy also played high school ball at Wilbert Tucker Woodson High School in Virginia, where one of his teammates was my cousin Andy Heck, a multi-sport athlete who went on to co-captain the Notre Dame football team that won the national championship in 1988, before going on to an eleven-year career as an NFL player. He’s now the offensive line coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars.)
Speaking of overdogs, I’m also a Boston Celtics fan these days too, for roughly the same reason: I’m local here. And I like the team. Celtics coach Doc Rivers and I have a common friend in Buzz Bruggeman, who is a hard-core Duke fan too — as well as a former college hoops player. Buzz got into Duke when he went to law school there. (I still like the Knicks, though. And the Golden State Warriors. David Hodskins and I had season tickets to the Warriors back in the days of Run TMC.)
Wish I could say I expect Duke to win it all. Hope they do, but I just picked Kansas. Or maybe it was Kentucky. (The Kid just went downstairs to check.) Okay, it’s Kentucky. Whatever, it’ll be fun to follow. I see that CBS has the games on-demand over the Net. Count me in for that. We got nothing but Net here. (Hey, it’s the future of what used to be television. I just hope that single purpose — pumping “content” — doesn’t turn the Net into TV 2.0.)