NCAA Tournament notebook: It’s madness even before the madness

first_imgST. LOUIS – Right now it’s 3:54 p.m. central time and there’s a plate of loose lettuce and a tomato with a food pick stuck through it to my left. To my right is our traveling photographer, Margaret Lin, who has been editing our video preview of Syracuse-Dayton for what has to be over an hour. We’ve got some spare orange peels and cords weaving in and out of each other along the table lined with beat writers from different schools, different parts of the country and distances certainly closer than the one we traveled all day Wednesday to a Holiday Inn 30 minutes away from the arena we’re in now.The day is dwindling down, for us at least, since Syracuse was the first team to speak to media and hold open practice inside Scottrade Arena. We’ve been fixed on three NCAA Tournament games on the two plasma TVs in the media workroom – first Duke-UNC Wilmington, then Iowa State-Iona and now the tail end of the smartest school in the country about to pull the classic 12-5 upset over Baylor.Earlier in the day, my credential was almost revoked because I hopped a railing from the first row of the stands to floor level because there was no other way to get to the court. One security guard threatened me before calling over another who did the same. But I’m still here, along with fellow beat partners Jesse Dougherty and Sam Blum, as we listen to the distant vacuuming and occasional “oohs” and “ahhs” as Baylor now closes the gap against Yale.For all three of us, it’s our first time covering Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament. For some of the guys sitting across from us, they’re clearly veterans. Writers from USA Today, ESPN, the Detroit Free Press and The New York Times have probably looked at the sticker on my laptop that says the name of a college newspaper. They’re talking about asking Jim Boeheim about Derrick Coleman, a Syracuse great that played for the Orange before any of us were even born, for a reason unbeknownst to us, aged 20, 21 and 22.“Syracuse locker room quotes?”AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Dayton locker room quotes?”“Middle Tennessee locker room quotes?”Hands pop up across the room and we can tell which reporters cover which teams, the desire for voices to fill the bulk of stories that are about to go online – and that’s just for one region of arguably the most entertaining three weeks in sports.Now the light fixture above us is buzzing and some band is blasting music in the arena, which was preceded by Nick Jonas, Justin Bieber and probably some Selena Gomez. None of the teams here have even played a single game and it’s already so hectic that the New York Times reporter is hugging a yellow pole with one hand inches away from the Yale-Baylor game that is now only a one-point contest with 6.8 seconds left.The vacuum in the distance traces over every inch of the rug horizontal to our working space and another staff member at the arena wears a green shirt and headband. Oh yeah, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, but that seems secondary to the day before Syracuse and seven other teams start their NCAA Tournament runs on Friday, since clearly nobody here has had much free time to think about drinking and celebrating… yet.Yale finally closes out its first-ever NCAA Tournament win and it seems like the band in the arena, still blasting some fight song, is playing for them. But they’re not. They’re just rehearsing for the main event tomorrow, which is pretty much what today was about for everyone – players, coaches, Scottrade Arena staffers, media.All that’s left for us here is for Margaret to touch up some photos for the gallery. She asks how many pictures we want in it. I say 15. She responds, “Can it be less?” I say sure. She asks, “Like is 10 OK?”Of course it is. Let’s finally close our laptops – especially Sam’s delayed feed on that he insists on watching instead of following the real-time scores on the TV. It’s almost been seven hours since we navigated our way to the credential pickup after asking a St. Louis Blues staff member with a hockey stick where to go. She looked at us like you’d expect, like we were three 20-year-olds from Syracuse just trying to find our way half a country away.The light has finally stopped buzzing and the only food left is chips, nuts and an array of fruit. I think the band has finally stopped playing… nope I’m wrong. It was only seven seconds of silence. Still rehearsing.“This is a really weird gallery,” Margaret says.This day has been weird in some ways, too. But I guess it’s all just part of the madness before the madness. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on March 17, 2016 at 6:20 pmlast_img read more