Fun Stuff From the UD Arena Floor

By Hal McCoy

SOME FUN STUFF OFF THE ink-stained cuff –comments, quips and absurdities from court-side at UD Arena for the NCAA First Four:

The NCAA First Four in Dayton is a basketball hoop-hoot. The tournament committee usually sends four teams to UD Arena that fans recognize and four teams that could rob a Bank One and nobody would recognize them.

And, behold, fans fill the Arena, meaning Daytonians love basketball, no matter what, or we’re a bunch of easily-duped dummies. Yeah, dumb like a porpoise. The event dumps more than $5.5 million into the Dayton area economy.

Ever hear of Fairleigh Dickinson? Me, neither. The school has four campuses — two in New Jersey, one in the United Kingdom and one in Canada. If I’ve ever met an alumnus, I don’t know about it. They probably didn’t want you to know.

Ever hear of Southeast Missouri State, or SEMO? Oh, yeah? What is the team’s nickname and where is it located? They are the Redhawks and the school is in Cape Girardeau, Missouri since the original campus burned down in 1902.

I once traveled to Cape Girardeau with the University of Dayton football team and discovered that we weren’t in the middle of nowhere, but you could see it from the second floor of the Motel 6.

They do have a recognizable name, a blast from the past. His name is Chris Harris, same name as the Chris Harris who played for the University of Dayton in the 1950s and later tried to sell us televisions via TV commercials.

SEMO’s Harris led his team with 23 points and the Redhawks made 27 field goals to 22 by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. But SEMO was whistled for 31 personal fouls and T-A&M-CC made 27 of 35. SEMO? They made 9 of 20.

SEMO is one of those teams that found a lucky charm in the grass. They finished third in the Ohio Valley Conference (10-8) and was 19-16 overall. But they won four games in four days in the OVC tournament, beating Tennessee Tech, 89-82, in overtime in the finals. So on Tuesday night, down the stretch, their legs were so wobbly they looked like newborn giraffes.

Along the way, SEMO lost to two Horizon League opponents, Milwaukee (84-68) and Purdue-Fort Wayne (89-68). And they were obliterated by Iowa, 106-75.

So, as they took the UD Arena floor to appear on national television, it was like, “What are they doing here?”

Ever hear of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi? Not just Texas A&M, we know about them. We’re talking about the Corpus Christi branch. The team is known as the Islanders because, well, the campus is on an island. And the school is sometimes called Island University.

I checked the roster. No Gilligans on the team.

Ever hear of Texas Southern. There is no Texas Northern or Texas Eastern. I looked it up. There used to be a Texas Western, but now it is Texas-El Paso.

That reminds me of Johnny Carson’s character, ‘Carnac the Magnificent.’ He would mystically give the question and answer to anything in an envelope held to the side of his forehead. He would guess the answer first, then give the question.

My favorite. . .The Answer: El Paso. The question: “What does a Mexican quarterback do when he can’t El Runo or El Punto?”

But I digress. Texas Southern is located in Houston. If somebody gives you the choice between going to Hell or to Houston, pick Hell. Hell is not as hot as Houston.

Texas Southern is an historically black school and is known as the Tigers. Shouldn’t they be Black Tigers? When I was in high school, we played the Cuyahoga Falls Black Tigers and they didn’t have a black kid in the entire school.

The TSU campus is noted for the amount of trees it preserves and I saw five of ‘em standing at center court for the jump ball. But they weren’t very sturdy.

Corpus Christi had its own, “Are you kidding me?” moments during its 23-10 season. When they put on big boy pants, they were destroyed by Oklahoma State, 81-58, and by Arizona, 98-61. However, they probably qualified for the NCAA tournament with that astounding 88-74 win over Our Lady of the Lake (I’m not kidding, that’s a real school).

Hey, they only lost to Xavier by one, 67-66. . .whoops! That was Xavier of Louisiana.

For the women (show this to the spouses). The prettiest uniforms belonged to Pitt. . .and no, I can’t describe ‘em because Oleg Cassini and I have nothing in common.

And can you believe Pitt has a player with the first name of Nike? Guess what kind of shoes he wore? Yep. Converse. His fulll name is Nike Sibande, a transfer from Miami of Ohio.

My favorite player, though, was Pitt’s 7-foot-0 Guillermo “Stick Legs” Diaz Graham from the Canary Islands, Spain. He could have been the world’s tallest, skinniest bull fighter. And. . .he has a twin brother on the team, but Jorge Guillermo Diaz is only 6-foot-11.

Mississippi State has a player named Tyler Stevenson, who should have been in spring training with the Cincinnati Reds, right? Oh, that’s right. The Reds catcher spells it Stephenson. Close enough.

Texas Southern came into the tournament (and went out quickly) with a 14-20 record. How in the name of James Naismith does a team with 20 losses get to put on its dancin’ sneakers?

They qualified by winning the SWAC tournament. They beat Grambling in the finals, a team that beat them twice during the regular season.

The Tigers, though, took on all comers during the regular season and weren’t afraid to operate in enemy territory. They lost to four NCAA tournament qualifiers — Houston, Kansas, Oral Roberts and Auburn. And they beat one of the other First Four qualifiers, Arizona State, 67-66 in overtime.

While losing to Fairleigh Dickinson, 84-61, Wednesday, they couldn’t drop the ball into the Great Miami River from the railings of the Stewart Stree bridge. They were 1 for 17 from three. They couldn’t have won this one if the NCAA gave them an extrac 22 points for their extraordinary dance team, cheerlers and ear-splitting brass band.

Not even Shaquille O’Neal’s son, Shaqir, could help Texas Southern. . .not sitting on the bench without taking off his warm-up. And at 6-7, 185 pounds he is definitely not The Diesel II.

The final game was supposed to involve a bunch of brilliant brain cells from the fertile coaching minds of Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley and Nevada’s Steve Alford. But Arizona State left Nevada brain dead, 98-73, the most points scored by one team in First Four history.

The only noteworthy fact was that Arizona State has two Ohio State transfers on its roster — 6-3 red shirt senior Luther Muhammad and 6-9 senior Alonzo Gaffney from Cleveland.

Hurley’s son, Bobby, plays for Nevada. Well, he wears a Nevada uniform but daddy doesn’t let him play much.

So who won the four games? Doesn’t matter. They’ll all be packing away their sneaker very soon, but it was fun for two days. . .for four of the eight teams.

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