If you've ever wanted to hear the voice of Scooby-Doo, Scrappy-Doo, and "Shaggy" (the same guy does all three voices) introduce a Toby Keith song - then ladies and gentlemen, Baton Rouge, Louisiana is the place for you. Flipping through the FM dial while sitting in traffic in the capital city on Tuesday, I learned that Scott Innes
of WYNK-FM is the voice of the mischief finding mutt that I happened to dressed-up as for Halloween last year. (Pictures NOT included in this post to protect both the innocent and my job.)
But this blog isn't about Baton Rouge, it's about New Orleans. So laissez les bon temps rouler, leave the Mystery Machine behind, and let's get on with this...
TUESDAY: The drive from Waco to NOLA wasn't bad at all. With the exception of that Baton Rouge traffic I mentioned, there weren't many delays. However, there was a lot of rain. Not at one time, and not heavy - just a lot. Literally. My windshield wipers were on from the time I left Waco until I drove through Lafayette. For a glorified mist. Gross. I felt like I was on my way to cover A&M in Spokane, instead of Baylor in New Orleans.
However, any weather-induced depression was quickly cured when I walked into the home of Sandee & Perry Winkler and was greeted by the aroma of jambalaya, gumbo, & muffaletta. Good food and great company. Quite the way to start the week.
WEDNESDAY: Contrary to the odds-makers predictions, I did, indeed, wake-up from my food-coma in enough time to get to New Orleans Arena for practice and interviews. After a long day of work, spent talking to Baylor, Sam Houston State, and Texas about 1st Round games, I decided NOT to insult the Irish (I'm not talking about Notre Dame, but they were playing here too) and celebrate St. Patrick's Day.
Words like lame, tranquil, quiet, dormant, etc. would best describe the atmosphere on Bourbon Street for St. Patty's Day. Take my word for it, there was NOBODY wearing kilts, drinking green beer out of green buckets, trying to climb stop signs, hula-hooping on balconies or any monkey business of the sort. Nope. Okay, I'm lying. It was off the chain.
THURSDAY: I quickly learned that the only negative about covering the NCAA tournament is not being able to watch the other games being played around the country. However, I did get to see Murray State's buzzer-beater against Vandy (in an upset I picked in my bracket, my ONE bracket. If you filled out more than one, you can't brag about your picks. Just sayin'.)
I also caught the end of the Tennessee-San Diego State game, before heading court-side here at the Arena to watch Texas
choke lose to Wake Forest in OT. From 17-and-0 and number one in the country, to an unranked first-round exit. Yikes.
With the exception of Baylor, it was a terrible day to be a team from Texas. Four of the five Lone Star State teams that took the floor on day one, aren't coming back for round two.
We didn't have to be at the Arena until 2:00pm, so Robert Shiekh and I enjoyed some charbroiled oysters at Drago's
for lunch and were able to sit down and watch the NCAA tournament for the first time. And of course, not a single game we got to see was decided by single-digits. I guess that's what we get for not being loyal to the "Madness" and paying more attention yesterday.
And just in case you were looking for some actual basketball content in this blog (it's not like I'm here covering the NCAA tournament or anything), I think Baylor will beat Old Dominion by double-digits tomorrow. The Monarchs make their living with their length and by crashing the boards. Sound familiar? ODU and Baylor will play very similar styles on Saturday, all the way down to their zone defense. But Tweety Carter and LaceDarius Dunn, after combining to take just 11 shots in 69 minutes against Sam Houston State, will bounce back and combine to score at least 35 points.
That's all for now. Wayne Winkler is boiling 85 pounds of crawfish tonight, and those little mud bugs get pretty steamed (get it, "steamed"??) if you make 'em wait. Adios.
SATURDAY: I'm sorry I'm just getting around to posting Saturday's entry. I'll blame it on my inability to type due to swollen fingers, as a result of all the salt and seasoning in Uncle Wayne's boiled crawfish, potatoes, and mushrooms from last night. Oh, and I can't leave out Sandee Winkler's crawfish and corn chowder.
Well, my double-digit spread prediction on the Baylor-Old Dominion game was a few points off, even though for a while there (especially at 15-to-5 and 22-to-8) it looked like the Bears were going to run away and hide.
But I nailed the prediction that Tweety and Lace would rebound from sub-par performances on Thursday, didn't I? I wrote that the Cajun Connection would combine to score at least 35 points. Lace's 26 + Tweety's 12 = 38 points vs ODU. They equaled their combined point total from the Sam Houston State game (15 points between the two of them) in the first seven minutes against Old Dominion.
Like I said in my game story for the 10 at 10
on tonight, early in the game when they scored Baylor's first 15 points, Tweety and Lace formed the most productive Louisiana "connection" since the Huey P. Long Bridge
was constructed across the Mississippi River.
But despite 38 points from the "Louisianimals" - BU doesn't beat Old Dominion without Josh Lomers. The 7-footer was special down the stretch. Pulling down rebounds, putting them back for points, AND getting to the free throw line in the process. He also seemed to be a bit of a calming influence late in the game, when BU's 14-point lead was gone and emotions were running high. Lomers' 14-points against ODU tied his career-high and the standing ovation he received from the Baylor fans inside New Orleans Arena was well-deserved.
So now Baylor goes from the home-state of Tweety and Lace to the home-state of five BU players, not to mention the University itself. Reliant Stadium will be rocking next weekend (the Bears will play St. Mary's on Friday). And anyone that tells you Baylor doesn't have a legitimate shot to go down there and win the Houston (South) Regional and advance to the Final Four, has either had one-too-many Hand Grenades on Bourbon Street or they haven't been paying attention.
The Bears don't get blown out. They are in every game. They have proven they can win without playing their best for the entire 40 minutes. They come from behind, they win close games, they close out leads, they play D-E-F-E-N-S-E. Are the Bears perfect? Absolutely not. But you won't hear them say that.
After being in that locker room for the last four days, it's apparent that this team has a swagger. It's a quiet confidence. (Except for the two or three minutes after the Old Dominion game, before the media entered the dressing room. That was NOT quiet. Ekpe Udoh compared the celebration to a mini-version of Bourbon Street after the Saints won the Super Bowl.) The Bears seem to have a business-like approach in their march through March. Never too high, never too low.
Remember, you don't have to be the best team in America to win a National Championship, you just have to be the best team on a 94-foot floor for 240 minutes
in late March & early April. Isn't that right, Bill Self?
Sure, Baylor just won two games (in come-from-behind fashion) to reach the first Sweet 16 in program history, but that's not the ONLY rare feat the Bears pulled off here in the Crescent City. They managed to leave the land of beignets, boudin, and barbecued shrimp still hungry. They have an appetite for more. Stay tuned.