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Fuhr Thoughts —The Madness experience live and in person

Bruce Fuhr
By Bruce Fuhr
March 23rd, 2014

March of late has been deemed the month Canadians dig out from another spring snowstorm as winter continues to hold off spring.

South of the 49th parallel, March is known for its Madness on the college hardwood as 68 teams take their shot at the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championship.

Seeing how a taste of March Madness was going to be in Spokane with
Washington State hosting the second and third rounds of the tournament Thursday and Saturday, I decided to take a trek to see what all the hoopla was about.

Now I have to admit college basketball has ballooned just a little since an old college buddy and I used a friend’s living room to watch three straight games in living colour one afternoon back in the Marques Johnson UCLA days. (I dare you to google to see when Marques Johnson played for UCLA.)

In Kamloops, being a poor college student, the only affordable luxury was a B&W Marconi for our pad viewers, which for $25 had difficulty keeping up with the travel of the ball. So it was a treat to see the games in colour.

This weekend in Spokane was definitely a step up from Kamloops — a basketball purists dream.

Four games to take in of NCAA Division One Men’s Round two games Thursday followed by two more third round contests Saturday.

Thursday was an eye opener right from the start as No. 12 Harvard upset fifth-ranked Cincinnati.

Later in the day odds-on favourite Michigan State manhandled Delaware Blue Hens before another 12-seed, North Dakota posted the upset over Oklahoma State.

And you ask about the final game? Well that contest went into overtime with San Diego State surviving against Canadian Sim Bhullar of Toronto playing for New Mexico State.

That’s 7’5”, 360-pound Sim Bhullar. Sim is one big man.

Basketball has fallen off the sports map the Kootenays over the past years since a group of boys put the Heritage City on the map with back-to-back provincial titles at Grade nine and ten division and a fourth-place finish in the Triple-A Championships during their senior year.

LVR didn’t even have a Senior Girl’s team for the first time since anyone can remember. But it was nice to see former Bomber and now LVR Senior Boy’s coach Jeremy Phelan scrape together enough funds to talk his Triple-A provincial tournament.

It’s obvious soccer, hockey and individual sports like skiing, snowboarding mountain biking and skateboarding have taken over.

But that doesn’t mean there is still a following locally.

And by the number of people I ran into at the Spokane Arena, there’s still a following.

From warm-up through to the final buzzer there’s dunks, steals, pin-point passing and shooting along with bands, cheerleaders and mascots all packed into one single game.

Saturday’s finale between Harvard and Michigan State saw those future Crimson billionaire CEOs and Nobel Peace Prize winners erase a 16-point deficit to take a one-point advantage late in the game.

The rally had the arena rocking. Most of the crowd, except for a section of Spartan supporters, was amped up hoping to see another upset.

However, President Obama’s pick to win it all showed resiliency, answering the Crimson run with one of their own to off the 80-73 victory.

It was quite a weekend in the Spok despite no one winning college basketball’s first $1 Billion NCAA Tournament Bracket Challenge. It took only 25 games for everyone to be eliminated from the contest that had the winner taking home $1 BILLON for picking the winners of 63 NCAA Tournament games.

Television, colour or B& W, doesn’t do the March Madness justice. Being there was gave me whole a new perspective.

Americans love their college hoops. And the Canadians playing on scholarship south of the border are proof success doesn’t always come from a puck and a stick.

Oh did I tell you the minute I crossed the Nelway border Saturday night back into Canada Saturday, it started snowing — flakes the size of saucers.

Which is good, because now I don’t need an excuse — even if its sunny — to spend Sunday in front of the television watching more games — that saw top-ranked Wichita State Shockers and second-seed Kansas get SHOCKED!

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