By Matt Vensel
5:00 PM EDT, March 17, 2011
The first real day of the NCAA tournament hasn't disappointed. We've seen a few close games, a couple of buzzer-beaters and one Cinderella step forward with a big upset. And I got paid to watch it all while eating chicken wings at Hightopps, so today has been a blast (sorry if you were stuck in a cubicle).
The Baltimore Sun's Tournament Tweetup today out at Hightopps was a lot of fun even though most of the folks on hand were there celebrating St. Patrick's Day. One lucky raffle winner named Greg won Orioles tickets -- he's the one in the middle of this photo -- and my buddy Ken Weinman from 105.7 The Fan came out to watch the tournament with us. Former Ravens linebacker Brad Jackson and former Towson football coach Gordy Combs were also there randomly watching hoops.
Thanks to all who came out.
Talking tourney now, Morehead State, a No. 13 seed and one of my Cinderella candidates in my bracket breakdown post, pulled off a stunning last-second upset of Louisville. Butler beat another formidable mid-major in Old Dominion on a buzzer-beater. And Temple knocked out my alma mater, Penn State, with a late bucket, too (I can't say that I'm bummed out too much because I jumped on the bandwagon last week). If the rest of the action can keep up at this pace, we're in for one heck of a tournament this year.
Of course, it would be nice if the Terps were still playing, even if it was just the NIT. Billy Packer, who said what many of us were thinking last week when he said that the Terps should be a perennial Top-25 team, appeared on "The Rob Long Show" on FOX 1370-AM this morning to talk about the tournament and the state of the Maryland program. Packer stood by his statement, and expounded on it at Long's request.
"The University of Maryland, because of the league that it plays in, its physical location of having a natural recruiting territory base, its basketball heritage, its facilities … the fact that it’s a major university that has a wide-ranging curriculum for people to attend, I think that when you look around the country and you say, 'How many schools match that in regard to what it has to offer?'" Packer said. "There are certain schools that probably find themselves up there, and I really believe that Maryland is one of those schools that belong [with] teams that are consistently in the Top 25 and fighting for both conference championships and deep moves into the tournament on a consistent basis. I will not pull back from that statement."
He reiterated that recruiting is the program's biggest issue.
"They don’t have Top-25 players," Packer said. "Gary Williams has proven to everybody in this country that he can take players and coach them up. The point of it is you don’t have players that are Top-25 players, and therefore, regardless of what you do, you’re not going to be in that position."
To make matters worse for Maryland fans, GQ has ranked Maryland's fan base as one of the nation's worst. Oh well. Today isn't the day to worry about that Terps. Go grab a green beer or six and enjoy today's games.
I know I will.
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