The Shock The World Chronicles: The NCAA Tournament Almost Killed Me

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Over the span of three days, I attended six college basketball games at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia for what is now considered the second and third rounds of the NCAA Tournament. As I am writing this Tuesday afternoon, I am coming off a 103.9 fever, a day of being incapacitated and delirious, a bit of vomiting, and a diagnosed case of the flu. Basically, the NCAA Tournament almost killed me.

And you know what? I wouldn't trade the experience I had this past weekend even with my body feeling like it's been hit by a 10-ton load of bricks. I've always wanted to attend the NCAA Tournament, and finally, at 29 years old, I was able to take in an entire weekend's worth of games thanks to my buddy Pete, who secured four tickets to all three sessions for the weekend.

I couldn't have been more excited to kick off the weekend a day early, and it got off to a tremendous start despite the frigid weather in the City of Brotherly Love. I hopped on the subway at around 11 a.m. Friday, met up with the crew, devoured a cheesesteak and headed in for the Duke-Albany game to tip off the weekend.


(2) Duke Blue Devils vs. (15) Albany Great Danes
Like most people, I have an irrational hate for all things Duke basketball, and it took approximately 37 seconds after stepping off the subway for that hate to bubble to the surface. A blue swarm of Duke fans, clad in Blue Devils gear, began flocking to the arena, and I wanted to punch them all right in the face, just as I do whenever I see someone wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey in my fair city. Of course, being a responsible adult who is against fan violence, I didn't, but believe me, that feeling was there.

To make the atmosphere even worse given the swarm of blue, we quickly learned upon our entrance that, no, there would not be any alcohol sales in the building, per NCAA protocol. This makes absolutely no sense to me, seeing as the NCAA is one of the greediest and seediest organizations on the face of the planet. Why wouldn't they want alcohol revenue generated from such an event? Not the ideal introduction to the tournament, what with the Duke fans rampant and no alcohol to cope with them.

The good news is I was satiated with the cheesesteak and set for some good basketball. And while deep down I was hoping to see Albany pull a Lehigh and bounce Duke in the first game, I knew better. The Blue Devils are a better, more complete team this year, and you best believe they had that Lehigh game on their mind.

As expected, the Blue Devils had no trouble disposing of the purple and gold, and truthfully, it looked like most of the Albany squad was just happy to be there. That's never a good sign when taking on a team like Duke. Other than point guard Jacob Iati — the smallest player on the floor, by the way — no other Great Dane really looked like he wanted to be out there. It resulted in an unspectacular game, though I do have to give Albany credit for not just throwing in the towel and getting routed by 30 points or something.

At the end of the day, Duke simply outclassed Albany, with Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee dominating with ease to move on. Honestly, the Duke crowd that had made me so angry internally as I entered the arena wasn't overly obnoxious, at least not near me, and I had a clear view of Dell Curry and his beautiful wife from my seat in section 106. Nothing overly eventful in game 1, but it was just the beginning.


(7) Creighton Blue Jays vs. (10) Cincinnati Bearcats
After stretching our legs a bit to check in on the Temple-NC State game and remarking on how thorough the NCAA was with scrubbing the arena of any and all advertising non-NCAA related, out came Creighton and Cincinnati — the Blue Jays with a decent number of fans themselves, and the Bearcats wearing those absolutely hideous fake camouflage uniforms with the neon orange and all black middle on the jerseys. Those things are disgusting. This whole outrageous uniform thing has really worn on me. I thought it was cool when Oregon started doing it, with the Nike money and coming up with different combinations. It was original, and a lot of those uniforms looked cool. But now everyone is doing it, trying to out-hideous each other, and frankly it's grating. Plus it takes away from the traditional uniforms, which is a shame, because college athletics are about tradition as much as anything else.

It's like any other fad — the original is innovative and cool, then the copy cats come and beat it into the ground. It's like with all those fans groups for the Philadelphia Phillies that started with the Wolf Pack — which was awesome — and devolved into the Padilla Floatilla; just like Pardon the Interruption — which I really loved when it came out and still enjoy — went from an innovative show to ESPN turning every show into people shouting at each other. Not everyone needs to copy things. Damn.

Anyway, back to the game at hand. Right off the bat, Cincy hit a few buckets and the game was close throughout, but before it was all said and done, the Bearcats simply didn't have enough offense to upset Creighton. As you'd expect from a 7-10 game, it was a close contest, and even though he didn't wow you with his game, Doug McDermott did what he does and put up 27-11 while going 11-11 from the line. Add in the three-point shooting of Ethan Wragge and the emphatic plays from Gregory Echenique — a huge block, huge dunk and huge rebound — and the Blue Jays were simply too much for the Bearcats.

Cashmere Wright hit a couple of treys for Cincy and Sean Kilpatrick did all he could to keep it close, but Cincy was one and done.

Honestly, as good as this game was, I was much more enthralled with what was going on in the Temple game. Since the Owls were hosting the games in Philadelphia, it only made sense for the updates to keep flowing on Temple. However, I have to say, the NCAA did an awful job utilizing all its assets for the fans' in-arena experience. Instead of showing games at halftime on the big screen, they simply showed whatever the halftime show was. Then when they'd show updates, they would mix in highlights that were deceiving, making it look like one team was winning when it wasn't. On top of that, when a score was put on the scoreboard, it didn't tell you how much time was left. Absolutely pathetic job keeping the fans informed and interested.

Luckily, the game was on in some of the club level suites, and we peeked in with a bad view. Every time they did put an update on the score, showing Temple ahead, the crowd erupted. Then, as Khalif Wyatt capped off a tremendous game with the icing free throws, a guy watching the game in one of the suites yelled down, "Temple won it!" The crowd around him, us included, went nuts. Shortly thereafter, the score was put up on the big screen, and the Wells Fargo Center went up in an uproar. That was more exciting than even the very close game that was unfolding in front of us.

After that first slate of games, we headed over to Xfinity for a couple of beers, meeting up with some friends who were also in attendance. We learned earlier that this crew had managed to get tickets to the club level, and for some reason, they were allowed to serve alcohol there. So we plotted ways to get club level passes for the later tilt, which was set to tip off at 6:50 p.m. for the Georgetown-Florida Gulf Coast match-up.

Oh, we also saw the tail end of the La Salle-Kansas St. game, with the Explorers upsetting the Wildcats in Kansas City of all places. Philadelphia teams 2-for-2 at the moment, which certainly excited those down at the complex.


(2) Georgetown Hoyas vs. (15) Florida Gulf Coast Eagles
All day long, one of our buddies was saying how he was really interested in the Florida Gulf Coast-Georgetown game. That was the one he thought could be really good. I found it a bit curious, seeing as I haven't seen FGCU play all year and didn't think much of the team, them being a 15 seed and all. Hell, I didn't even know the school existed before the brackets came out.

Well, it didn't take me long to get introduced. As Trible said yesterday, FGCU is not your typical No. 15 seed, not by a long shot. The Eagles came out and right from the jump starting dunking all over the Hoyas. And I mean all over them.

This didn't look like a game where the 15 was outclassed by the 2, a la the Duke-Albany game. No, this looked like a game where the 2 was outclassed by the 15.

Since we made our way up to the club level and the beers were flowing, I was being more bold with my disdain for the Hoyas. Earlier this year, I saw Georgetown lose in this very same building to Villanova, and in that game, Otto Porter Jr. was held in check. As Porter was tossing up brick after brick Friday night and quite literally was a non-factor in the game, I began to reiterate how I believe he's the most overrated player in the nation. Here was all this talk of Player of the Year, yet he couldn't even have any impact whatsoever in the two times I saw him play in person. He's good, but he's not great. He just isn't.

Well, those comments weren't sitting too well with the plethora of Georgetown fans who made the short trip up from DC, particularly the two in front of us, but what could they say? Porter wasn't doing jack shit, the Eagles were dunking all over the Hoyas and FGCU was up 2 at the break.

But it was in the second half where things really got interesting. Not only was Villanova fighting back from a huge deficit to tie up North Carolina, but FGCU continued to run and gun and dunk all over Georgetown. Sherwood Brown was the best player on the floor, not Otto Porter. Brett Comer was playing fearless basketball, throwing lobs at any and all angles. Eddie Murray and Chase Fieler were throwing down thunderous dunks. And Bernard Thompson matched Markel Starks shot for shot.

It was one of the most fun games and most fun teams I've ever seen play, and it didn't take long for them to win over the Philadelphia crowd. Sure, the Hoya fans were upset, but the majority of the building was going bonkers after every emphatic dunk, after every insane pass, after the show-stopping performance by the Eagles.

By the time we heard Nova wound up succumbing to UNC anyway, the Eagles were finishing off the Hoyas emphatically, en route to a 10-point victory.

From there, we got a few more beers, got into a stupid shouting match with a fellow Temple fan who just kept shitting on Villanova — one of our buddies is a huge Nova fan — and then found our way up to the skybox suites for the San Diego St.-Oklahoma game.


(7) San Diego State Aztecs vs. (10) Oklahoma Sooners
By this point in the day, we were all tired and hungry and somewhat worn out. But we did manage to watch most of this thoroughly unexciting game, moving from suite level to suite level and then finally bailing as the Aztecs built up a sizable lead in the second half. Honestly, the most memorable thing about the game was Jamaal Franklin's stupid sneakers, which looked like Timberland's while simultaneously making me hate him.

FGCU had sapped up all the energy of the day/night, so we departed, headed back to my place, grabbed a couple more drinks and then went to bed.

Saturday was a bit of a struggle. Still worn out from Friday night, I awoke with a slightly sore throat but felt fine otherwise. I actually got a little exercise in before watching the games, got some wings with my friend and his girl, then called it an early one and fell asleep before the last of the games had ended. After all, I had another slate of games to attend Sunday.

Sunday began in an ominous way. I woke up feeling really tired and achey, that sick feeling you get when, well, you're sick. My stomach was fine, but there was pressure in my head, my throat hurt and I just didn't feel right. Not good.

I did go out and get some DayQuil/NyQuil to try and shake whatever it was that was bothering me, but I was wiped. I sat on the couch and watched the early game, only to dose off. I had to make sure I was fresh for the Temple-Indiana game, and fresh I was. Pete came over, and we watched as Khalif Wyatt picked up right where he left off, coming out and scoring at will against the Hoosiers. It didn't matter who they put on him, Victor Oladipo included, Wyatt was getting his.

With that, he led Temple to a three-point halftime lead. Problem is, no one else on the Owls was doing much of anything offensively, and you just knew Indiana wasn't going to let Wyatt kill them all game. Unfortunately, the Owls never could get anyone else going, and Oladipo, clearly pissed off from the first-half explosion by Wyatt, took Khalif out of the game in the second half.

Temple still had its shot and actually should have won had anyone else stepped up, but no one did. Oladipo hit a clutch three to essentially ice the game, and the Owls went packing. That didn't help my failing health.

Still, we managed to go grab some pizza at legendary Tacconelli's before departing for the games in Philadelphia.

Now, here's what didn't and still doesn't make sense. Why in the world were the games that were being played in Philadelphia the latest games of the day? It makes absolutely no sense. And it made for one hell of a late Sunday night, one that did my body no favors.


(7) San Diego State Aztecs vs. (15) Florida Gulf Coast Eagles
Take everything that happened on Friday night against Georgetown and apply it to this game Sunday. FGCU came out running and gunning with San Diego State, then dunked the Aztecs into submission in the second half to win by 10 points, becoming the first 15 seed to make the Sweet 16. It was awesome. And they won over the Philadelphia crowd like no one's business.

At the same time, La Salle was making its own improbable run to the Sweet 16, toppling the land shark once and for all. Everything that I have to say about this game can be summed up in my tweets from the arena:







As the game concluded, I was incredibly excited … and completely drained. My body was turning on me. But there was one more game to be played.


(2) Duke Blue Devils vs. (7) Creighton Blue Jays
This game was painful to watch. Not only did it tip of just slightly before 10 p.m., but the officials decided to call a foul on every play the entire game, making it drag out way longer than it should have. Other than that, I don't have much to say about the game. Doug McDermott looked outclassed, even if he did score 21 points — he shot just 4-16 from the field — and Blue Devils were superior in every way. Once Duke went up by double digits with under 10 to go, we departed to give my struggling body a rest.

Unfortunately, rest wasn't all I needed. When I woke up Monday morning, I felt absolutely horrible, sweating and freezing and coughing and aching and wanting to die. I had a 102 degree fever, which led to vomiting, which led to finally calling the doctor. I was delirious and dizzy, wanting to just end it all. When I got the doctor, my fever had spiked to 103.9 degrees, way to high for a 29-year-old man. Luckily, mono was ruled out. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with the flu, and I'm still suffering from it as I write these words.

I'd like to think it was just happenstance, but honestly, going to six games in three days almost killed me. And I'd do it all over again if I got the chance.

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