March 19, 2009
Greetings from Miami!!
I have just settled into my hotel room after a long day of travel and an even longer eight days since the Vikings won the Horizon League Championship in Indianapolis on March 10th.
I can't begin to explain what the atmosphere was like in Hinkle Fieldhouse after the Vikings defeated Butler in the title game because the out-pouring of emotion from the CSU players and coaches was so genuine and so overwhelming.
On a side note, please be sure to watch The Viking Basketball Report this week on STO because the third segment exclusively consisted of player interviews from the floor post-game and the comments were so amazing that they brought tears to the eyes of Coach Waters as he watched.
Anyway, the team left the Wolstein Center this afternoon shortly before 1:00 p.m. It was like any other road trip this year, if you can ignore the first bus that left 30 minutes before with the band and cheerleaders, and the fact that we hopped on 150-seat charter aircraft and flew directly to the Miami Airport.
Viking One left Cleveland at 2:30 and touched down in Miami a little before five.
Just getting to Miami is quite an accomplishment considering that we left just 66 hours after the bracket announcement and the amount of paperwork that had to be filled out took just about that amount of time.
I have spent the last week arranging interviews for the Viking players and coaches. As a point of comparison, Coach Waters will get a request or two a month during the regular season to do radio interviews on all-sports talk shows. In the last week, he did no less than 30 interviews - including four from the court at Hinkle following the game - and we probably turned down twice as many.
The media came out in droves to cover the Vikings. They were there when the team arrived back from Indy, they were there for the selection party and then again the next day at practice. They were even there today when we pulled out of the Wolstein Center loading dock.
We are staying out by the airport in Miami, at the same hotel we used when we came down here for the tournament around Thanksgiving, so things are a little comfortable for us. Stephen F. Austin, which is playing in the other pod in our sub-regional, is also staying at this hotel.
The schedule for the team was pretty simple today. They practiced in the Wolstein Center before leaving for Miami. Upon arriving, they went out to eat at Red Lobster and returned to the hotel for a team meeting.
Thursday's schedule is another thing. After eating breakfast, the team will watch film and then get ready for a two-hour practice at a secret location in the area. They will then rest a little bit before heading to American Airlines Arena for a one-hour practice and a half-hour of media interviews.
The practice is usually an interesting one as it is open to the public which means that the only thing most teams will do is shoot and mess around. The best thing about the practice is that it will be the first opportunity for the players and coaches to see the tournament site and start to get accustomed to the atmosphere that they will be playing in.
This will be the first time that most of the Viking players and coaches will take part in the NCAA. Coach Waters and Coach Desimpelare took part in two while at Kent State and Jayson Gee was at one while at Ohio University.
I've been fortunate in my career. This will be my 14th NCAA as a participant and I have served as the media coordinator once more. I have been to sub-regionals around the country from Boston to Anaheim and from Boise to Orlando. Each one is different because it is all about watching the players and how they react to this environment.
Some thrive and move on and others struggle and head home early.
I have been fortunate to advance as far as the regional finals in the tournament once and I had another year where the school I worked for should have won a national title had they not suffered a devastating injury the week before the tourney started.
The most fun I've had at a tourney came in 1991 (I think) when the New Mexico State team I worked for defeated DePaul in the first round and Southwestern Louisiana in the second round to become that year's Cinderella team. A loss in the Sweet 16 in Albuquerque to UCLA ended the season but it sure was fun to be part of that team.
Unfortunately for me, the first round pairing against Wake Forest puts me up against one of my best friends in the sports information business, Steve Shutt from Wake Forest. I met Steve when he was the assistant SID at Bowling Green in 1983 and I worked for him through my undergraduate career and then again for eight years at New Mexico State (he was the one I celebrated the Sweet 16 run with). I'd rather go up against Utah or Arizona in the first round because I wouldn't be facing my best friend and mentor.
I am going to end here and get some sleep. I promise that there will be several updates this weekend from our travel party so stay tuned.
And, as always, feel free to send me questions to email@example.com