Primed for 2018 NCAA Tournament

It’s March Madness, baby! The bracket was revealed about 90 minutes ago and the week that many consider the best in sports is now upon us. The NCAA tournament used to be what I looked forward to most in March – but then my daughter was born on St. Patrick’s Day – so my priorities have changed a bit. Regardless, I still get excited for the 68-team college basketball extravaganza.

This post is going to be super short because the time change has me exhausted…just kidding, I reject the imaginary impact of daylight savings. But it is still going to be short because Sid and I have a Netflix series we want to start.

First, I want to give credit to CBS/Turner Sports. For the second year in a row, the Selection Show was a big improvement from the 2016 atrocity. This year’s edition was even better than the make-good show in 2017. Cutting right to the chase by announcing the teams that made the tournament, both automatic qualifiers and at-large teams, was a great call. This set up great organization prior to bracket reveal and spared us from the awkward cut-ins of teams who sweated it out for an entire 2-hour Selection Show only to be disappointed at the end.

The “live audience” in the Turner studio was pretty hoaky and I wasn’t sold on bringing in a separate analyst for each region (I still have a tough time accepting Charles Barkley as a college basketball expert) but it was the best show to date so I will keep my complaining to a minimum.

Sadly, my Chanticleers did not make it to the NCAA tournament this season. Thus, because my #1 team is not in the field, I will have to pull for a couple others.

In 2015, I traveled with the Chanticleer men’s basketball team to the NCAA tournament.

One of these universities is (surprise) Gonzaga. A No. 4 seed in the West region, the Zags will face UNC Greensboro in Boise. After last year’s narrow loss in the national championship, the Bulldogs will have to actually win the title this season to top their 2017 run. Not an easy feat but hopefully Gonzaga will at least win a couple games and bring my hometown the excitement that Spokane has become well-accustomed to.

Even more than Gonzaga, I will be enthusiastically cheering for the Montana Grizzlies. How can I not cheer for my alma mater and former employer? It will be great to watch the maroon and silver on national TV as one UM goes up against another UM. Although the University of Michigan might be recognized as the premiere “UM” across the country, I am crossing my fingers for a major upset in this No. 3 vs. No. 14 matchup in Wichita, Kan. Yes, I have been removed from Montana long enough that I don’t know any of the student-athletes or coaches on the team but a lot of the athletic department support staff remains, so I will be pulling for them and hoping that they have an enjoyable experience.

This is me at the 2012 NCAA Tournament when Montana played Wisconsin in Albuquerque.

Okay college basketball nuts, your time has arrived! Enjoy the games and Go Bulldogs and Go Griz! Don’t Blink.

An Improved Selection Show

Good evening, everyone. I hope it was a tremendous weekend for all. I want to start this short blog post by recognizing CBS. The selection show this year was exactly what it needed to be. This year’s edition was of course a major improvement over last season’s disaster but it also was a superior show compared to the last several as well. The bracket reveal this afternoon was quick and predictable. Greg Gumbel started with one region and read through it all before going to a commercial break. When the show returned he read completely through the next region before the next commercial break (and it went on like this two more times).

Gone was the nonsense of revealing the #1 seeds one at a time. Gone was the travesty of NBA late night guys making picks on partially revealed brackets. Gone were the excessive commercial breaks. Gone was the ridiculous shenanigan of trying to slow play the bracket so you had to wait two hours until it was completely revealed. CBS learned from last year and provided us viewers with a much better product in 2017.

With that said, something did not change from last year. Sadly, I once again only have one team I truly care about participating in the Big Dance. The basketball teams from the university I currently work at and the university I used to work at fell short in their conference tournaments. Because of this, I will be cheering hard for Gonzaga to make a very deep run as a #1 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament. My Spokane hometown allegiance and my stint as a ball boy for the Zags gives me all the incentive needed to support them this March. I really hope Mark Few leads Gonzaga to a Final Four.

Enjoy the madness, everyone. Put down those stupid specialty brackets and concentrate on the 68 teams that got a ticket punched for the greatest tournament in sports. Best of luck to all the student-athletes participating. Don’t Blink.

Why I Hate Specialty Brackets

I made it clear over a year ago, I don’t fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket. So, it goes without saying that I don’t take time to fill out, or even entertain, non-basketball brackets that have fun with the March Madness format.

These days around March, there is a bracket of 64 for pretty much everything. You hop on Facebook or open up your e-mail and you can view brackets for ice cream flavors, candy bars, past “Survivor” contestants, hard rock bands, fast food restaurants, cartoons, and much more. Aligned on slots just like college basketball teams, these brackets aim to capitalize on the tourney frenzy. I understand the thinking. In fact, a long time ago I liked seeing one of these “fun” brackets every now and then. However, this is no longer the case.

Your typical candy bar bracket.

Your typical candy bar bracket.

Parody brackets have spiraled out of control. Simply put, there are just way too many of them. Besides the fact that too many exist, I have two main problems.

Here is a cartoon bracket.

Here is a cartoon bracket.

First, parody brackets are a complete gimmick. People behind a mascot bracket or a comic book bracket do it solely for website traffic or blog hits. Creators view a mock tournament as a way to cheaply reach out to 64 companies/entities/fan bases/etc. and hope that each one will promote whatever lame tournament they come up with. It is all about shares, retweets, and likes. I opt not to advance their quest for viral notoriety as I will never use one of my own social media channels to draw attention to these brackets and most often I don’t even look at them.

Second, parody brackets are completely flawed. The way “champions” are crowned is erroneous. Many times, the creators of these brackets don’t actually have people vote on their favorites through each round. Rather, it is just the nerd making the bracket decisions himself. Take candy bars for example. If you jot down 64 candy bars according to the traditional seeding system, it should play out according to chalk every single time. If you have a Baby Ruth as a #5 seed and a Milky Way as a #12 seed, there is no conceivable way the Milky Way should ever win. As opposed to an actual basketball game where you have two teams playing each other in a physical sense where anything could happen, when you say you like one candy bar more than the other, the case is closed. Your taste buds won’t automatically change and decide they like a Milky Way better than a Baby Ruth. A bracket is not an acceptable way to express the best in a category. Rather, creating a list and leaving it at that is the best method.

In the past I could appreciate a parody bracket that was created simply to bring a smile to someone’s face. These days the intentions are greedy and the methods flawed. Don’t give me a “Best Movie Villain” bracket, I will just stick with the best teams in college basketball. Don’t Blink.

A Great NCAA Tournament Experience in Omaha

Yes, I know I sound like a broken record. As I have said before, attending the NCAA Tournament is special; occupying a spot on the travel party for a participating team is a career highlight. Just about 24 hours shy from returning to Myrtle Beach from Omaha, I am still on a high from the experience I had watching the Chanticleer men’s basketball team compete in the most well-known tournament on the planet.

It was a pleasure to travel with the team to Omaha. I took this photo after the public practice in CenturyLink Center on Thursday night.

It was a pleasure to travel with the team to Omaha. I took this photo after the public practice in CenturyLink Center on Thursday night.

But what is it that makes the NCAA Tournament experience so special? Well, let me tell you one thing that doesn’t make it special…the city. God Bless Omaha but I won’t be moving out there anytime soon. You see, there is something about the tourney that transcends geographical boarders and makes whatever town you are in irrelevant.

It is the respect.

Team charters, police escorts, hotel employees dressed in university apparel, school logo plastered everywhere, locals looking at you in awe, national media on location, and an organizational structure that is ten times better than what the phrase “on point” can ever express all convey a deep level of reverence. It is intoxicating.

This is the police escort that led our bus to the CenturyLink Center for Thursday night's public practice.

This is the police escort that led our bus to the CenturyLink Center for Thursday night’s public practice.

Personally, I had a wonderful trip. I had complete freedom and access to do my job but at the same time I also had fun. Throughout the duration of the trip, #CCUSocialMedia was able to give our audience a real time look inside the tournament experience through constant posts in addition to the release of four videos and three photo galleries. When I wasn’t sharing the sights and sounds with #TEALnation I was able to visit the site of the College World Series, eat an Omaha steak, check out a cemetery, and tour the downtown part of the city.

I got to see TD Ameritrade Park, eat an Omaha steak, and visit a cemetery.

I got to see TD Ameritrade Park, eat an Omaha steak, and visit a cemetery.

But let’s get real here, the trip was about the student-athletes and it was a complete pleasure observing them and following them. The team let me shoot everything from breakfast to the private shoot around at Creighton University to moments before the game when they were stretching in the bowels of the arena. From the time of the sendoff to touch down in Myrtle Beach yesterday, everyone on the squad was a complete gentleman. It was a joy to cover them.

I have a couple of personal highlights from the trip. First was attending the public practice/press conference at CenturyLink Center the day before the game. The minute the fleet of police motorcycles lead you into the private entrance of the arena you really realize what a big deal it is. The size of the media workroom, the hospitality area, the staging area, and of course the facility itself quickly remind you that you aren’t in the HTC Center anymore. Watching the team practice in high spirits while Marv Albert and other notables looked on was really cool.

This was me at the shoot around at the CenturyLink Center on Thursday night.

This was me at the shoot around at the CenturyLink Center on Thursday night.

Second, the game night experience itself was awesome as well. Once again, the prominence of the tournament hits you when you have schools like Oregon and Oklahoma State playing right before you. You feel like you have really made it when Barry Alvarez walks right by. You know your school is center stage when at halftime the TBS feed is displayed on the video board and Charles Barkley is talking about Coastal Carolina. Add that with a full arena with countless staff members/tournament officials in suits walking around and you can’t help but feel the pageantry.

Me on the court moments before Coastal and Wisconsin tipped off.

Me on the court moments before Coastal and Wisconsin tipped off.

Our men’s basketball team represented our university gallantly on the huge stage. The Chants played Wisconsin tough and registered the slimmest margin of defeat in the tournament between  #1 vs. #16 teams. The Badgers just had too much size. When the buzzer sounded, our student-athletes had nothing to hang their heads about.

Badou Diagne goes up against Wisconsin's big stud, Frank Kaminsky.

Badou Diagne goes up against Wisconsin’s big stud, Frank Kaminsky.

Our other students who came along on the trip didn’t either. The pep band, cheer squad, and dance team did a fantastic job at the game and conducted themselves with class the whole time in Omaha. It is really cool to observe them as well and see how much fun they have. They did a lot to earn their way on such a special journey so it is gratifying to see them enjoy it.

The CCU dance team, along with the pep band and cheer squad, did a great job representing Coastal.

The CCU dance team, along with the pep band and cheer squad, did a great job representing Coastal.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one final aspect that makes an NCAA Tournament trip so memorable…the relationships made. In addition to the ones I already knew, I got to meet and hang out with more staff members from the athletic department, many around my age. To talk with them and have fun with them was a great opportunity for me to connect with other young professionals who share the same interests as me.

Many thanks to Athletic Director Matt Hogue for allowing me to go on the trip. He understands the importance of having someone who specializes in social media covering such a major event. I brought back a lot of memories from Omaha and will always look back on this trip very fondly. Don’t Blink.

Why I Choose Not to Fill Out a Bracket

When folks ask me if I filled out a March Madness bracket I always say no. I respond that way because it is 100% accurate, I choose not to go through the annual prognostication exercise of filling one out. However my reasons for not doing so go beyond NCAA regulations. As I mentioned in a recent post because I work in an intercollegiate athletics department I am forbidden from participating in any bracket competition where anything of value is at stake. This includes anything from a free dinner in a bet with a few of my friends to Warren Buffet’s $1,000,000,000 bracket challenge.

So what is stopping me from filling out a bracket just for the fun of it? Nothing, really. If I wanted to I could spend an evening penciling in six different brackets like many of my friends do. But I choose not to for various reasons, including:

I don’t know the teams in the field well enough. I don’t pay an adequate amount of attention to the college basketball landscape during the year to properly make decisions on the 67 total games that are played throughout the NCAA Tournament. I just don’t feel comfortable basically taking a wild guess on who would win a game between George Washington and Memphis. Not only did I not watch a single minute of the regular season of any of those two teams I also couldn’t tell you a single player or coach on either squad. I don’t like flipping a coin to determine which team should advance.

I hate the work that comes from maintaining a bracket and the blacked out disarray that results from it. Not only is putting streaks through my wrong predictions bad enough but the unreadable, sharpie soaked paper my bracket becomes confuses me on which teams are actually still alive in the tourney. Nothing is worse than when your Final Four team busts out in the second round and you got to scratch them out through the next several rounds. I rather watch over a blank bracket and fill it in as the action unfolds so that I have a clear picture of what is going on in the tournament rather than trying to decipher what is going on over my badly predicted sheet.

I also have a thing with being wrong over and over again. Like I said, I plead ignorance when it comes to superior knowledge of college basketball. Because of that I know if I fill out a bracket I am going to make wrong decisions…a lot. Instead of getting mad and ashamed about my terrible picks I rather just watch the tournament games in peace with no pressure. I prefer to watch a game and appreciate it for its unique twists and turns rather than stressing out over a random team I want to win solely because I made an uninformed decision picking them.

Another reason I decide to pass on filling out a bracket is I tire of telling people who I have going to the Final Four, which #12 seeds I have pulling an upset, and who my dark horse is to win it all. Going back to what I have said throughout this post I just feel unqualified to make such decisions so when people ask me these questions I feel like I am just spewing B.S. by answering them. Also, I will admit that in the years past when I have filled out brackets I commonly forgot who I chose as my Final Four, making myself feel very embarrassed when asked to state my picks. I also like to avoid the people who want to chastise my decisions or engage in needless debate.

Finally, I am lukewarm to the whole idea of filling out a bracket just because nothing is at stake for me. I stand to gain nothing. There are no consequences for my disastrous picks or reward for if I ever got incredibly lucky and managed to submit a decent bracket. To me, filling out a bracket “just for the heck of it” is a waste of time.

After the first day of the tournament (third day if you count the First Four games) I hope you are in the 0.4% of perfect brackets still out there. I think we were treated to some great basketball today and best of all I got to sit on my couch and watch all the evening games in comfort and free of stress. Can’t wait until tomorrow’s action. Don’t Blink.

My 2014 NCAA Tournament Top 10

With what many people call the best spectacle in sports starting tomorrow I felt like it was only appropriate for me to jot down some thoughts regarding the men’s basketball 2014 NCAA Tournament. For this post I am going to go David Letterman on you all and categorize my nuggets of tourney wisdom top ten style. But if you despise Letterman’s nightly top ten list don’t worry: I am not counting down nor am I making an attempt to be humorous…well unless you consider my awful writing skills humorous.

1. Sitting Out the Dance: After two straight years of the Griz making the NCAA Tournament the streak has come to an end. It is definitely a bit of a letdown not marketing the team on such a large level and not attending the tourney but I try to keep things in perspective. You can’t go to the Big Dance every year and on the bright side I will actually get to enjoy the tournament and watch the games from my own home. Yesterday I felt so weird watching the Selection Show on my couch without the pressure of capturing the moment our team was announced live and then racing to get all the information out to our fans.

Me at the 2012 NCAA Tournament in Albuquerque.

Me at the 2012 NCAA Tournament in Albuquerque.

2. Love the Coverage: I know it was just a matter of time before it happened but I am so thankful for the comprehensive coverage of every single tournament game. For the past few years CBS has utilized its family of networks to give fans the option to watch any game they want in its entirety on television. I used to go insane when CBS wouldn’t show the game I wanted to see in my regional market or when it would cut away to another game. I spent way too much time during my younger years yelling at the score ticker at the bottom of the screen rather than watching the actual game.

3. Dislike the First Four: I used to not mind when the tournament just featured one play-in game because I found it cool that two random teams got national exposure along with infinite punchlines on how bad the winning team would get beat by the #1 seed. However, I think four games is overkill. I also dislike the fact that two of the play-in games grant the winning teams a seed higher than 16 into the tournament. I know the NCAA has its reasons for these games but I think they are gimmicky.

4. Hate the Terminology: Adding to my dislike of the First Four is that those games are now classified as the “first round.” This means once the tournament actually gets started with the round of 64 those games are classified as the “second round.” Which of course means the original second round of games are now classified as the “third round.” I hated denoting this technicality last year when talking about our team’s matchup with Syracuse. Although it sounds more important to say Montana played Syracuse in the second round of the tournament give me a break. It was the first round and now everyone will have to make distinctions between a team that made it to the second round in 2009 versus a team that made it to the second round in 2014.

5. Warren Buffet’s Billion Dollar Bracket: I love the rejuvenated bolt of excitement this stunt by Warren Buffet and Quicken Loans has given bracket picking this year. Although I can’t participate because of NCAA regulations I have enjoyed the uproar and excitement it has caused. Buffet has made the rounds on radio shows promoting his competition and he is a lot of fun to hear talk. He crunches numbers and probability right on the spot. On every program he has said that if someone manages to make it to the national championship game with a perfect bracket and if Quicken Loans allows him to, he will try to broker a deal with the fan and cut his losses. How cool would it be to see that happen?

6. Cue the Corny ESPN Tweets: While I love ESPN I hate its main Twitter account. Yes, even though I cringe at what it sends out I still have the tweets sent directly to my phone because I need to stay informed. However, I can only handle so many clichés and cheesy statements before I get fed up. With the NCAA Tournament here I am mentally preparing myself for loads of silly and unprofessional updates.

7. Why Michigan State?: Because I am deeply involved in the Griz and Lady Griz basketball seasons I don’t usually get to follow the college basketball season as a whole as much as I would like to. There was no exception this year. With my ignorance freely admitted, can anyone tell me why everyone and their dogs are choosing Michigan State to win it all? I watched yesterday as ESPN’s whole college basketball studio panel plus Dick Vitale practically crowned them champs. As a #4 seed I am just a little puzzled at why the Spartans are so highly regarded. BONUS: Michigan State will begin its tourney journey in Spokane this year. Four years ago they started there as well and I got to witness it as they won both games to advance to the Sweet 16. They ended up making it all the way to the Final Four.

8. NCAA Tournament Doesn’t Determine Champion in a Legitimate Way?….BULL: Last week as I turned on Mike and Mike I listened as Mike Greenberg bashed the tournament as an inefficient way of selecting a champion. He believes the best teams don’t get a big enough advantage and that the single elimination format doesn’t do enough to establish a true champ. I think he must have just been trying to generate controversy that day because I honestly don’t see a better system out there. You got a large representation of both bigger and smaller schools battling it out on neutral courts in a well-structured format. Who would ever want to see a college basketball national championship series where you watched Kentucky and Georgetown play in a best of five series? Yuck. A team that is able to win six straight games against the best competition at the end of the season earns the right to be called CHAMPS.

9. My Favorite Part of the Tournament: I think you kind of have to attend an NCAA Tournament to really understand this but there is nothing cooler than going to a tourney site and experiencing the true collegiate atmosphere. Besides eight different teams in one arena you also got eight different cheer squads, eight different mascots, eight different bands, and eight different fan bases. Cultures collide and it is all under the bright lights on sports’ biggest stage. There is nothing better.

The collegiate atmosphere at the tournament makes it so special.

The collegiate atmosphere at the tournament makes it so special.

10. Who I am Cheering For: Here are the teams I am cheering for in each region…UCLA (South), Coastal Carolina (East), Gonzaga (West), and Iowa (Midwest).


Enjoy the tournament everyone! Best of luck winning that billion dollars and I hope you all get your own personal “one shining moment” at some point during the Madness. Don’t Blink.

Don’t Blink’s Second Year Anniversary

Two years ago today I sat down and wrote my first ever entry for Don’t Blink. As I look back on that initial entry I shake my head at my stupidity for titling it the way I did. I am sure many people looked at it and thought I was writing about something other than just the introductory post to my new blog. Well, you live and you learn.

Over the past two years I have definitely lived and learned quite a bit, both through authoring a blog and through life in general. The best part is that this two year period is all documented through more posts in my blog than I ever thought I would compose. If you took the time to read my initial awkwardly written post, you will see that all along this was my number one goal. I started a blog because I wanted an electronic record that chronicled my life’s adventures as well as my thoughts and opinions. Mission accomplished (thus far). After 24 months, I think of myself as a pretty dedicated blogger.

Thanks to all for supporting my blog over the past two years.

Thanks to all for supporting my blog over the past two years.

Today’s entry marks my 313th post for Don’t Blink. When I started this project back in May of 2011 I didn’t know if I even had 50 things to write about let alone over 300. But as I started to get in a groove, ideas just kept coming and new experiences continued to find me. Throw in all the trips I went on, new restaurants I tried, unique social media mediums I played with, inspiring people I came across, random situations I got myself into, and social norms that I felt compelled to comment on and you can definitely see that I have been very blessed with plenty of blogging content.

But a good blog doesn’t just depend on good content. The quality of writing and the presentation of the site are two crucial factors that will determine whether readers will give your blog the time of day. I try to improve my writing each night I compose a new draft. I am definitely not the best writer (what do you think I am, an English major?) and I like to think I am not the worst either (I have seen some scary things before). I consider myself an average writer with some skills but with a lot to improve on. My pledge to my readers is to get better over the next two years. A year ago I switched from an elementary looking blogger page to my current website. Over the past two years, this change has no question been the most important development in my blogging career. The credibility, readers, statistical tools, and search engine optimization that I have gained from this move will always have me wondering why I didn’t do it from day one.

Enough though about my reflections on the boring things regarding Don’t Blink over the past two years. How about I sum up the last two years using a couple of lists? Everyone loves lists! I first will present my top five most viewed posts over the past two years. I will then provide my top five favorite posts that I have written the past two years. Here we go!


1. Instagram Spam (April 9, 2013): Even though I just wrote this a little over a month ago, I still get at least 70-80 views on it a day. It just goes to show the obsession that people have with social media along with the negative role that spam plays in it.

2. The Feud: Colin Cowherd vs. Dan Patrick (May 8, 2012): Until “Instagram Spam” overtook it, this was by far my most popular post. The sports talk radio industry has a very large and loyal fan base, and many of these people are tied to the internet and blogs. I get comments sent to me from radio junkies referencing this post all the time.

3. Thanks, Jim (April 4, 2012): A few days after our athletic director Jim O’Day was let go I wrote down my thoughts about what he did during his time at Grizzly Athletics. The first full day the post was up it received over 1,500 views. It garnered around the same amount of views the next day as well. Even though the post was entirely for Jim, it picked me up numerous readers who still view my stuff today.

4. #HashTags (February 16, 2012): I wrote this as a tutorial to everyone who felt confused about hash tags and I couldn’t be more pleased that the internet community continues to read it every single day. I did my best to explain hash tags during a time when people did not have the grasp that they have on them now.

5. Serving the Youth (October 29, 2012): One October night, Christie and myself turned the championship game of a youth football league into a Grizzly Game Day production. I wrote about the experience and parents of the kids shared my post like wild fire, resulting in the fifth most viewed post of all-time for Don’t Blink.



1. The $25,000 Man (October 19, 2011): Undoubtedly my all-time favorite post, I got such a kick out of telling the story about the time my brother hit it big and the shenanigans that followed.

2. Naturally Dark (September 3, 2011): I think this might be one of my favorite posts just because of the absurdity that made me write this in the first place. I have a few very outspoken people who challenge me on why I turn so dark during the summer so I felt that I had to write it all down for them.

3. Posting Food Pictures on Social Media (June 11, 2012): What a hot topic this is! I love debating with people when it is okay to post food pictures and when it is not and that conversation grew even more after I wrote this. I literally laughed out loud while composing this one.

4. Treat Your Waiter Right (June 5, 2012): Man, I was on during June of 2012!! I honestly judge people by the way they treat their restaurant server. I have a great respect for the people who wait on us and serve us our food so I tried to defend them as much as possible in this particular post. I think it is in my top five just because I believe in what I say so much.

5. An Amazing Day in Grizzly Athletics (March 19, 2013): On March 16, 2013, Grizzly Athletics experienced a day for the ages and I was right in the middle of it. In this post I talked about what it was like to work a day in which we sent both our women’s and men’s basketball teams to the NCAA Tournament on our home court. It will forever be one of my favorite memories and only natural that it is one of my favorite posts as well.


THANK YOU TO ALL MY READERS! It has been a great two years and I can’t thank you enough for all the support you have given me regarding this blog. I look forward to continuing to take you inside my head on all subjects and experiences. You are the best. Don’t Blink.

Lady Griz NCAA Tournament Experience

This past week I had to opportunity to attend the NCAA Women’s Basketball tournament while working on the Lady Griz travel party. Doing this allowed me to take in two new experiences. First off, I had never attended a women’s basketball NCAA tournament before this weekend. Secondly, I had never traveled with the Lady Griz. I can now check both those things off my bucket list.

One of my duties was to watch over the pep band and cheer squad. In fact, for this trip I was designated as the “coach” of the cheer squad…something that I can add to my resume. Anyway, all of us on the band and cheer squad departed campus via bus for Spokane on Thursday afternoon about an hour before the Lady Griz left. This gave us time to check-in to the hotel, the Red Lion at the Park, and then get set up to truly welcome the Lady Griz when its bus arrived. Positioning the cheer squad right outside the doors of the hotel and setting up the band right inside the hotel conference area lobby, the Lady Griz received a loud and spirited welcome that any team that made the NCAA tournament should receive.

The Lady Griz getting off the bus and getting welcomed by the Cheer Squad.

The Lady Griz getting off the bus and getting welcomed by the Cheer Squad.

After the team arrived and got settled in, many of us went up to the Skyline Ballroom of the hotel and watched the Griz basketball team square off against Syracuse. Unfortunately, the Griz basketball team did not have a very good night. Fortunately, the Griz basketball team had a spectacular season so even with the loss we all felt great for what the team had accomplished. As we walked out of the viewing room and went down the elevator, the Lady Griz knew that the eyes of Montana were now focused solely on them.

The Lady Griz watching their male counterparts play.

The Lady Griz watching their male counterparts play.

The next day we had band and cheer rehearsal for the game in the back parking lot of the Red Lion. Under the early spring Spokane sun, it was very pleasant getting ready for the timeouts that the band and cheer squad would get to perform for during Saturday. It was amusing watching hotel guests open up the back doors and snap pictures at the very collegiate scene taking place in the parking lot. For the hotel guests who did not hurry down to ground level to see the practice, many had to have watched from their room windows as the sweet sound of “Up With Montana” was audible enough even on the eleventh floor.

The Cheer Squad and Pep Band rehearsing in the Red Lion parking lot.

The Cheer Squad and Pep Band rehearsing in the Red Lion parking lot.

After the rehearsal and a nice walk through downtown Spokane and Riverfront Park capped off by a tasty lunch at the Olive Garden, I drove to the McCarthey Center to cover Media Day. One thing about NCAA tournaments: the media rooms are always full and busy with activity. Moderated by an NCAA official, the Lady Griz press conference featured Robin Selvig, Katie Baker, and Kenzie De Boer. I enjoyed listening to them field questions from the media. As I tweeted out after the press conference, I admire how articulate and professional our Lady Griz athletes are when dealing with the media. It goes without saying that Robin Selvig is a true pro at the same thing.

Robin Selvig, Katie Baker, and Kenzie De Boer

Robin Selvig, Katie Baker, and Kenzie De Boer

When the press conference concluded I spent some time chatting with my friend Shaun from ABC/FOX and then I went out on the arena floor for the Lady Griz practice. Before the session started the players posed for a group shot that was well-documented by all the media types there, including myself. While they ran through a 90 minute practice I got some great pictures from many different angles of the facility and then just relaxed and watched from press row as Robin conducted the remainder of the practice.

The Lady Griz posed for a picture before practice began.

The Lady Griz posed for a picture before practice began.

That Friday night I had the bus take the band and cheer squad out to the Spokane Valley Mall. While I had seen the place a thousand times, I got to enjoy a nice Mexican dinner at Azteca with Shaun and Misti, one of our main equipment room workers. After a couple hours and too much Mexican food, we returned to the hotel.

Saturday morning of game day came and I made sure to get our social channels primed and ready for the big match up with Georgia. The Lady Griz departed the hotel at 1:30 p.m. and once again we had the band and cheer squad sending them off the right way. This time both cheer and the band were staged outside, making it a very spirited walk for the Lady Griz from the exit of the hotel to the bus. Coach Selvig was the last one on the bus and he made sure to give us a salute, prompting cheers from everyone.

The Lady Griz walking to the bus while the band plays and the cheer squad cheers.

The Lady Griz walking to the bus while the band plays and the cheer squad cheers.

At 2 p.m., cheer and band made the bus ride to the McCarthey Center. After the Gonzaga crew checked all I.D.s, we went to the holding area where we joined Georgia’s spirit squad and band. In a nostalgic moment for me, the holding area was in the old Kennel of Martin Center where Gonzaga used to play its home games. For two years when I was in grade school, I served as a ball boy for Gonzaga in that very gym. After everyone got settled I went over to the “new Kennel” of McCarthey Center and watched the remainder of the first game, Gonzaga vs. Iowa State. Much to the disappointment of the home crowd, Iowa State defeated the Bulldogs, starting off a terrible day for the Gonzaga basketball programs. The game ended and teams, spirit squads, and bands were switched out and just like that we were thirty minutes away from Montana vs. Georgia.


In the staging area which was the Old Kennel.

In the staging area which was the Old Kennel.

I got a front row seat right in front of our cheer squad. Playing in front of a good crowd in a magnificent facility, I got that familiar NCAA tournament adrenaline rush circulating through my veins. The Lady Griz started off slow but then went back-and-forth with Georgia for the final fifteen minutes of the first half to only be down seven points at halftime. Then, in a display that had the whole gym believing and rallying around Montana, the Lady Griz started the second half hot and cut the Georgia lead to 38-36 early on. However, that was as close as they would get. A couple more rallies fell short and the energy exerted to make those comebacks proved costly as Montana ran out of gas towards the end. When the buzzer sounded, Georgia had defeated the Lady Griz, 70-50.

The Lady Griz played well and competed.

The Lady Griz played well and competed.

In no way was the final score indicative of how close the game actually was. The Lady Griz played great and honored the Montana tradition. Simply, Montana competed with Georgia. Playing as a #13 seed and playing against a power conference you can’t ask for much more.

The Cheer Squad relaxing at halftime of the game.

The Cheer Squad relaxing at halftime of the game.

The travel party stayed the night in Spokane. Man, was that one sad city. After the Lady Griz game, many of us watched as the Gonzaga men’s basketball team went down to Wichita State. There were some pretty shocked and upset locals that night. Sunday morning we drove back to Missoula. Shaun and Misti kept saying how long the trip seemed, but not in a bad way. It was just one of those things were you thought to yourself, “Wow, it seems like I have been here for longer than sixty hours.” We pulled up to the campus on a sunny afternoon and went on with our days.

I took away a great experience from Spokane. I enjoyed getting to hang out and socialize with staff members who I normally don’t have the opportunity to talk to. I enjoyed watching over the cheer squad and getting to know the band better. I also enjoyed the satisfaction of knowing that I am very lucky to work for the Montana Grizzlies and that the way we run things both at our own venue and when traveling is top notch. Mostly though, I enjoyed watching the Lady Griz basketball team cap off a remarkable 2012-13 season. To all the coaches and players on this year’s team…thank you. Don’t Blink.

March: A Wonderful Month

February 2013 treated me well and I used the month to improve myself personally. However, I would be lying if I said I am not happy to see it go. For me, February is kind of a depressing month. Sure you got the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day but besides that it is a pretty gloomy time. The cold still lingers, the freshness of the new year fades, and a feeling of restlessness creeps in. It doesn’t hurt my feelings at all that February is the shortest month of the year.

Thankfully, I always find consolation in the fact that after one of my least favorite months passes, one of my favorite months emerges. Besides the summer months, March is my favorite month of the year. I like March for many reasons but I think the overarching appeal of it is just that the cold is leaving and brighter, warmer, longer days are arriving. Throw some great basketball in that mix as well and you got a pretty spectacular month. For this post I would like to briefly highlight some of the great things that make March so spectacular.

Great Montana Basketball: As you will see as I list all of the reasons for liking March, most of these items that make the month so awesome are constants …with the exception of this one.

Well, I should rephrase that last sentence in regard to my subject. The University of Montana always has great basketball, it is just that this season we have really, really great basketball. Both our Griz and Lady Griz teams are in first place and have great shots at ending the regular season in those number one spots. If this occurred, we would get to host both Big Sky Conference tournaments and I would be in absolute Heaven. But let me not get ahead of myself…

Big Sky Conference champions or not, the first ten days in March will be very exciting as both teams play in crucial games that will decide the outcome of the league. To have the opportunity to travel to Bozeman tomorrow for Griz-Cat basketball and then to work the final two Griz home games next week is something very special and something that I am looking very forward to.

Christie and I in Bozeman last year after both Montana basketball teams swept Montana State.

Christie and I in Bozeman last year after both Montana basketball teams swept Montana State.

Daylight Savings Begins! – On Sunday, March 10, we will move the clocks forward and trade in sixty minutes of sleep for longer days. Immediately, we will have an hour more of daylight on that Sunday evening and from there on the days will just get longer and longer. I can’t express how much it elevates my mood when I leave work in the evening and it is still perfectly light out. Waking up to the sunshine is another coveted luxury that Daylight Saving’s brings.

Longer days make me happier and more productive with my time out of the office. I notice a change in the people around me too. I can’t wait for the time change to come!

NCAA Basketball Championship Week – Last year I devoted a blog post to Championship Week so my love of this time is well-documented. The NCAA Tournament is awesome but Championship Week just has a whole different element to it. The ten days of conference heroics, court stormings, unknowns made into heroes, storylines, and the allure of having automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament up for grabs makes for incredible basketball.

The playing stakes and the different atmospheres make me adore Championship Week. What makes Championship Week even better? When I get to participate in it! Last year we hosted the Big Sky Conference tournament for men’s basketball and it was an absolute blast. With the chance to host both the men’s and women’s Big Sky Conference tourneys this year, I could potentially have the best Championship Week ever.

St. Patrick’s Day – Who doesn’t love St. Patty’s Day? Sandwiched perfectly right in the middle of the month, I have never not had fun on March 17. Last year I got to experience the craziness of Butte American on St. Patrick’s Day and had a memorable time to say the least. I have also had many good times in Missoula on the holiday as well. Nothing beats dressing up in ridiculous green gear and celebrating the Irish. It is something I look forward to every March 17.

In Butte last year! Melissa, myself, and Misti.

In Butte last year! Melissa, myself, and Misti.

The Start of Spring – On March 20 the season of Spring officially begins. Even though Montana weather won’t always recognize this change in seasons, just the indication on the calendar means a lot to me. Winter is officially over and even though if it happens slowly, conditions will only improve. Spring symbolizes new life and brighter days. All I can say to that is AMEN.

The NCAA Tournament – There could be a month marked by natural disasters, famine, and death but as long as the NCAA Tournament still took place during it, many people would consider it the best month of the year. The NCAA Tournament is obviously one of the best sporting events in the world and what helps make it so fun is that the excitement lasts for a couple weeks, even spilling into April! Of course nothing really compares to the first Thursday and Friday of the tournament where the whole field is in action, making it two of the most exciting days on the calendar year.

Remember how I said there was a certain condition that would make Championship Week even better? Well that condition applies for the NCAA Tournament too! If the Griz or Lady Griz happens to make the Big Dance, the excitement goes up exponentially.

Myself at The Pit in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the NCAA Tournament.

Myself at The Pit in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the NCAA Tournament.

Easter – This year March will conclude with my favorite holiday. Easter falls on March 31 this year and will provide an excellent ending to what is going to be a great month. Easter to me is such a bright, hopeful holiday that brings a lot of peace and joy to my soul. The most significant date on the Catholic calendar, Easter has a lot of meaning to me and my family. Nothing beats Easter Sunday mass and nothing beats the time I get to share with my family afterwards. Easter is not about presents or a huge meal, it is about being thankful for the saving of humanity.

As with the whole theme of March in general, Easter is about renewal and the coming back of life. It is an optimistic holiday filled with brightness and joy. Luckily for me, Easter will be here in no time because this month is going to fly by with all the fun things going on.

My brother and I on Easter Sunday last year.

My brother and I on Easter Sunday last year.


Have a blessed March everyone! Make the most of it and improve yourself. Good luck to your teams and have a good one. Don’t Blink.