Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fear the Burn--Redux

As those who have followed this blog know, I attended the semi finals and finals of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in St. Louis two weeks back. For the finals I sat behind three knowledgeable and dedicated Northern Iowa fans. To my right and under the basket was the rabid student section. At one point I noticed a fellow wearing a tank top that read, Fear the Burn. I asked my Northern Iowa faithful neighbors what that referred to. I discovered that a substitute for UNI named Lucas O'Rear sported side burns and this was what the shirt referred to. Indeed I noticed that the tank topped student fan had comrades similarly adorned and the group had pencilled in side burns on their cheeks to reflect their allegiance to the sideburned player.

I was impressed with UNI when I saw the games because they seemed to have two teams. The starters, and then a crew that came off the bench that often played more effectively than the starters. They beat Wichita State in the finals of the MVC, but until the end the game was tight. It was great to see UNI revel at the end and dance the "I'm going to the dance" dance, but truth be told I thought they would get spanked in the first round.

So, yesterday--as evidence of my prescience--the University of Northern Iowa defeated the number 1 team, not only in the region, but in the entire tournament. This was their second win in three days in the Big Dance. They did not get spanked, but did the surprising spanking. Had it not been for a last few minute push by the erstwhile top seeded Kansas, the game would have been a double digit victory for UNI. Whatever IT is, UNI seems to have IT. Lucas O'Rear--fear the burn--is a good example of how this team--inexplicably--prevails. I watched him intently yesterday. The guy does not seem as if he could beat me, at 60, in a game of one on one. Yet he made a real difference yesterday. I note today looking at the box score that he had 5 rebounds. During the game on a number of occasions he kept balls alive by tapping them to teammates. He was a real pain in Kansas's O'rear setting picks all over the place for his teammates. For a guy who looks like he could not score twenty points a game if he was left in the gym alone for an hour, I think Kansas preferred it when O'Rear was not in the game.

I found myself rooting for UNI like my neighbors in St. Louis did during the MVC. I don't see how they can advance further, but I did not figure they could get to this point.

Readers of the Madness of March know that this is the time in Las Vegas when bettors are running out of gas. They have watched 40 basketball games to date, and are now on fumes as they prepare to watch the remaining 8.

I went 5-3 yesterday, running my three day total to 23-16-1. This means that unless I lose all 8 games today, I will come out ahead for the weekend, (assuming that I only made single bets on each contest which would not have happened). Coming out ahead would mean that minus four nights lodging, eating, and satisfying my thirst, I would "win"--assuming I break even today, about 70 dollars, rendering the weekend about a 600 dollar loss. The fans who flock to Las Vegas for March Madness are not going there to make money, but rather to enjoy the festival.

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