For a while I was guarding Budinger, who drained two wing jumpshots from at least 25 feet; I had halfheartedly contested the shots. On a fast break, Budinger ran the lane and dunked from outside the circle; I made sure to get at least four feet out of the way. I'd seen many people dunk, and I myself have done that deed, but this level of athleticism didn't compare; he had leapt, yes, like a wildcat, with his hips at the level of my face. It's the difference between dunking with your hand one inch above the rim and dunking with your hand a foot-and-a-half above the rim.
Nic Wise didn't have the obvious NBA body of Hill and Budinger, but he could definitely shoot well, but preferred ballhandling. He could cut the lane and get up a shot faster than anyone I'd seen in person. The stats say he scored 29 in the tourney game.
The experience of being on the other team was comical and awe-inspiring. Budinger, Hill, and Wise were more like superheroes than regular guys shooting and playing ball. The ball moved so crisply, spun so beautifully in the air, and the rim never seemed so low. The court never seemed so short.
For a moment I was guarding Jordan Hill, whose skill game was very raw at the time. At 6'10'' and athletic, he very well could have dunked every time he got the ball, but was missing short post shots which he'd probably been doing drills on. One other guy didn't get so lucky -- he got "teabagged" with Hill jumping right over him for a dunk.
I didn't get on fanboy status with any of the guys, but the game was fun and they had a decent time. Funny how the athletes lived such a different life, with their own facilities and food, and probably athletic department-hired tutors. But everyone played their part -- I was a graduate student who could fashion myself however I wished. The greenskeepers kept the main street looking good, the cops looked for suspicious people, and the undergraduates partied. Just a sublime equation. A wonder that anyone learns or discovers anything in such places.
The University of Arizona in Tucson is quite a magical place. This is only one of many memories that I have about it.
I basically took a 4-day weekend to watch the first and second round of the NCAA tournament, the first two days of which were largely spent at a bar down in Fairfax, VA. While I could go into great detail about the games, I found a quote from ESPN columnist Bill Simmons that pretty accurately sums it up:
"Nothing unites basketball fans like hanging out in a bar and rooting against Duke."
In addition to the Duke/Belmont game, the Western Kentucky/Drake was one of the best in recent tournament memory, and it was absolute pandemonium when WKU hit the impossible buzzer beater in OT. Unfortunately, local team George Mason was out of their game within a few minutes of tip-off. Nonetheless, quite a fun weekend of great basketball.
I love March Madness! Best sporting event of the year, for sure.