By Craig Kwasniewski
I'm in Vegas for the annual March Madness trip (11 years and counting). Here's a breakdown of the Thursday morning games (all times Pacific):
We're watching all the games at the Las Vegas Hilton sportsbook. This place is well organized with tables and chairs everywhere for March Madness. The tables are great for laying out newpapers, stats and several bottles of beer. Mix in the better ventilation, food and sparse amounts rednecks... this is a huge step up from the Stardust.
7:50 AM: No breakfast, no coffee and we start off the day with a shot of Jack.
Lucky me, the guy behind us obviously did five pounds of blow this morning and is all lathered up. He's yelling out the tee-shirts of people walking by:
"Boise State!!! Statue of Liberty! You da man!!!"
"England, England, England... oi, oi, oi!!!"
8:20 AM: I'm in line for breakfast and I overhear a phrase that should never be uttered in a sportsbook, "standard deviation." Let's keep it simple people. I've had 4 hours of sleep, a shot of Jack is burning my stomach and I haven't had my morning coffee or even breakfast. You're betting college hoops, not grading papers.
The games haven't even started and we've already seen two alcoholic beverage spills, and it wasn't even us. There are tables and chairs all over the place with little walking room. People are constantly bumping tables and knocking over drinks. There may be an All-Star weekend-type riot before the end of the day.
9:05 AM: The sportsbook is cheering the opening credits for the CBS broadcast, we're all fired up.
9:10 AM: Screwdriver #1 goes down. Does Sunny Delight and Vodka pass as breakfast?
9:15 AM: The games are under way with Davidson v. Maryland. My Davidson +7 bet feels better when I realize that they're coached by Robert Schuler... god is on my side!!!
9:26 AM: The Davidson Pull are jacking up threes left and right and play a fun up-tempo style. They're not hitting anything, but that doesn't stop them... PULL!!!
9:28 AM: Screwdriver #2 and Boston College v. Texas Tech is on. New rule: white guys should never wear headbands. Didn't we already learn our lesson from the Jason Kapono era at UCLA?
9:31 AM: The entire BC squad went with headbands. NOTHING is more intimidating than headbands. Why Texas Tech even showed up is beyond me.
9:41 AM: The Stanford v. Louisville game is on. The Cardinal (the color not the bird, as we're told a million times) can't seem to hang with the Cardinals' (the bird not the color) frenetic pace and looked lost. Can somebody please tell me how the Cardinal (the color) made the tourney?
9:45 AM: "He is a terrific penetrator!!!" Jay Bilas breaks out the line of the weekend, and we're not even one hour into the games.
9:48 AM: Have I mentioned that the Davidson Pulls like to jack up threes? They are 6-14 from downtown, in the first eight minutes. Pull!!!
9:50 AM: Are Michael Jordan and Kevin Bacon roommates or life partners? MJ's coming off as the jilted one with the way he treating The Bacon. Dial it down a little and let KB throw away his trash.
9:55 AM: That Tiger Woods Wii commercial is pretty funny, but then I realized... Tiger Woods is going bald! Couldn't they us that spray-on hair to cover up the bald spot on top of his dome? Why not CGI some hair in post production? This is Tiger Woods not a used car salesman.
10:03 AM: CBS officially puts the Stanford-Louisville game in the fridge, switching feeds with 8 minutes left in the half. Is this a record time for a team from a major conference? Again, can someone please tell me why Stanford made the tourney?
10:06 AM: First outburst in the sportsbook as a buzzer beating tip-in by BC covers the first half line. A few high fives and f-bombs follow... this is why March Madness in Vegas rules.
10:16 AM: Halftime for two games and we're forced to watch the Stanford game. I'm watching "How I Met Your Mother" commercials instead. The game was that bad.
CBS studio producers yelling in the ear pieces at halftime, "Smile dammit! Smile!!"
10:31 AM: There's something about cheerleaders in turtlenecks. I can't quite put a finger on it (but I'd like to put my whole hand on them... bah-dum-dum)... sue me, I'm drunk.
10:36 AM: The third spilled drink of the day.
10:37 AM: Davidson takes an eight point lead off a sweet layup following a niiice 20-foot bounce pass. Timeout Maryland,
10:39 AM: The BC-TT game is back and forth, this has buzzer beater potential.
10:40 AM: You gotta love the Katie Couric commercial with the "Don't you fucking know who I am?" snarling smile. I bet she breaks that out when the line at Starbucks is five deep.
10:49 AM: Maryland goes on a run and ties the game at 52. The Pulls just countered with a three as I'm writing this. Maryland has kicked up the defensive intensity coming out of the TO.
10:53 AM: I don't have the audio to the Maryland game, but the Davidson student section needs to break out a "Darrrryyylll... Darrrryyylll!!!" chant for Maryland's DJ Strawberry.
11:00 AM: Fear the Fro - Davidson can't stop Maryland's Ben Wallace Jr. (Bombay Osby). He's starting to take over the game. Coach Shuler need to put together the right sermon during the next TV timeout to counter.
11:07 AM: Maryland has taken control of the game. Very impressive how they did it: wait out the Davidson run, crank up the defense and pound the ball down low on offense. Excellent adjustments by coach Williams... just don't cover the 7.
11:12 AM: My friend Dean (who took Texas Tech +3) is trying to reverse jinx the game yelling, "It's over! BC covers!!!" with Tech only down five with 2 minutes left.
11:16 AM: The reverse jinx fails. I win my first bet with BC -2.5.
11:26 AM: The sportsbook is going nuts as Maryland covers the -7 with a 12 point win. This is more like an "I told you so" cheer as the game ends. These are people who bet on Maryland and were gripping for 2/3 of the game as Davidson kept it close.
The first three games come to and end. The Davidson-Maryland game was the most fun to watch, Texas Tech-BC had zero defense (surprising considering the coaches involoved) and the Louisville-Stanford one was an abortion.
(More to come later)