'Madness' is a pretty outdated term -- offensive really -- so at Riptide we prefer to classify what's going down at American Airlines Arena this afternoon a little more precisely. Our psychologists are rolling out a diagnosis of paranoid basketball schizophrenia with a touch of hoops paranoia and a major Jim Boeheim Oedipal Complex.
In other words, we need some drugs. Some sweet, sweet nylon music medication.
It's 30 minutes to tipoff and we've already stolen a courtside seat just east of half-court, for the first-round matchup between the Syracuse Orange and Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks. Our allegiances are well known in this shakeup and -- fortunately -- we're right next to the Lumberjack cheering section.
Click through the jump for an up-to-the-minute, probably off-topic, mildly informed live blog of the game, starting just past the noonhour. Until then, we turn it over to the purple-clad Lumberjack cheerleaders: "Give 'em the axe, big jack! Give 'em the axe!"
12:11: Game time! And to be honest, I'm more excited about Stephen F. Austin then ever before. I can tell you this from my highly scientific shootaround observations -- they have among the greatest mascots in college basketball.
It's just some dude from Nacogdoches with arms as big as my torso, wearing a red plad shirt with the arms cut off and weilding a purple axe with a mildly unhapy face painted on the blade. The whole ensemble looks like a Halloween costume thrown together an hour before the party with stuff you had lying around in your closet already. Look, I'm a lumberjack!
12: 20: Quick start for Syracuse with a monster blocked shot on the Lumberjack's big man, Dirk Nowitzki lookalike Matt Kingsley, and a quick dump downlow on their end for two. There are two things already concerning me about the 'Jacks chances: Their point guard, Eric Bell, is listed at 5'3" and looks like Mugsey Bougues midget cousin. And their coach looks eerily like Alex Trebec. Don't ask me why this is a bad omen, but I don't feel good about it.
12:23: Eric Devendorf hits a free throw, and manages not to punch any women in the face in the process. 8-2 'Cuse.
12:28: How can you not root for midget Mugsey Jr.? The refs are literally towering over this guy. Alas, he lofts an alley-oop pass two feet too high for his guy and the 'Jacks are stuck on two points. 10-2 Orange. Timeout Lumberjacks.
12:40: The Lumberjacks matchup problems, I'm afraid, go well beyond the Alex Trebec-Jim Boeheim contest (everyone knows that Boeheim is a triva master). Literally everyone in purple is shorter than everyone in Orange other than point guard Johnny Flynn, who just tossed up a monstrous alley-oop jam to Arinze Onuaku (who ate a hamburger this afternoon appx. the same size as Eric Bell). It's 18-4 and I'm going to go ahead and call the final score now: Syracuse 127, Stephen F. Austin 29.
12:41: On the upside, the Jacks coach just led a vigorous round of Celebrity Jeopardy on the sidelines during the timeout. Audio Clue: Name this Continent. (Cue Booming Voice): "Asia."
12:45: A quick side update from a totally objective University of Missouri alum with absolutely no rooting interest in another game going on today and who really couldn't care less if the Chickenhawks of kU lose horribly in their first round game and cry all the way back to Lawrence: North Dakota State 11, KU 12. Verrrrrry interesting ...
12:55: A few over-unders on this game, fresh in from our personal bookie, Shorty Bogues, Mugsey's other, slightly taller but also still a midget cousin.
Chances that the Lumberjack macot falls into a deep depression and attacks Eric Devendorf with his purple axe: 37-2.
Chances that Eric Devendorf retaliates by attacking an innocent female bystander and then talks trash about it: 15-1.
Chances that 275-lb. Arinze Onuaku mistakes Eric "The Real Midget Mugsey" Bell for a delicious hamburger and attempts to cover him in mayonaisse: 3-1.
1:05: Well, we've reached halftime and I'm afraid it hasn't been much of a showing for our purple friends from Nacogdoches. It's 38-22 Syracuse, and the Lumberjack highlights have been few and far between. There was that one three-pointer that spun around the rim a few times before bricking. There was that whole possession where they didn't turn the ball over even once. And there was a great back and forth between their coach, Burt Reynolds and Sean Connery during the last timeout (I think Connery called his mother a "two-cent flop-house whore").
But we're going to need something special from our Jacks in the second half to make a contest out of this, and I'm going to call it now: Eric Bell slam dunk via trampoline, with a midair backflip thrown in. Draw it up, Alex ...
1:25: We're back at it, and not a trampoline in sight. Why doesn't Alex Trebec ever listen to me? Not coincidentally, the half starts with a rejection on a Lumberjack player so hard that he falls down clutching his mouth afterward like he just got punched in the face by Eric Devendorf, quickly followed by two consecutive monstrous dunks by Onuaku.
1:32: A quick word on the crowd: The first round didn't sell out, but it looks like the Orange fans traveled well for today's matchup. The lower bowl is mostly full of Orange shirts and there's a few hundred fans up top. Wouldn't exactly describe the atmosphere as "electric," but it's at least "static electricity." The Lumberjack's Dirk lookalike is getting all spiky-haired. But that may have more to do with his mortal fear that Onuaku will cover him in mayonaisse and attempt to eat him for lunch.
1:40: Hey, a four-point run for the Jacks! The crowd goes wild! Eric Devendorf pulls out a switchblade, stabs both referees, sets a car on fire, misses another layup, and tells anyone who will listen that he's the best player on the court. Only down 27, SFA ...
1:50: The Syracuse mascot, a plump little orange in a baseball hat and track pants, is being played by either a small woman or a young child. I'm fairly certain the Orange could post up on Eric Bell.
1:54: Gratiutous kU update: North Dakota State 50, Chickenhawks 54. Bisonnnn Rummmmble!
1:59: Hey, Shorty Bougues just checked in with a few more lines, hot off the presses in Vegas! Thanks Shorty!
Chances the Stephen F. Austin Band knows any songs other than "Don't Stop Believing" and the CBS Basketball Theme: 398-1
Chances that Journey remain popular in Nagocdoches (which sounds like a hip town with delicious, douche-free nachos to me, I don't care what the commenters are saying): 100 percent.
Chances that Johnny Flynn secretly can't stand playing on the same floor as Eric Devendorf and is looking forward to watching E.D.'s future career in the Turkish Professional League: 3-1
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2:04: Obviously, it's a moot point because the Lumberjacks can't quite seem to surpass that 20-points-down barrier, but Eric Devendorf is laying out a monstrous pile of crap of a game today. His stats at the moment: 10 points, 6 turnovers, one of five on three pointers, and an attitude that would get him kicked out of a Real World house. Every time the Lumberjacks bring the ball down the court, he stands at the three point line like he can't believe he's being forced to share oxygen with these guys. My advice to the parents of Miami: keep your daughters inside tonight. Devendorf is going to be pissed about this game.
2:09: Well, there's your ballgame: Syracuse 59, SFA 44. Not quite as monstrous a beatdown as I would have guessed from the first half, and every single Lumberjack seems to have escaped the court without being eaten by Onuaku. Your final, unofficial stats: Syracuse uncontested dunks, 32; Renditions of 'Don't Stop Believin'' by the SFA band, 47; acts of violence by Eric Devendorf, 0 ... for now.
Thanks for hanging with us for a couple hours and enjoy the rest of (cue "Final Countdown" and the smoke machines) March ... Mental .. Illness ... in Miami!