The Motley Fool Discussion Boards

Previous Page

Sports / College Hoops


Subject:  Tourney notes from St. Louis Date:  3/29/2004  4:40 PM
Author:  path40a Number:  4810 of 11259

That's right, instead of sitting on my sofa two Sundays in a row - - to watch my alma mater play, I decided to get off my arse and go to the game. Of course, the fact that I didn't make this decision until AFTER I watched Oklahoma State edge St. Joseph's early Saturday night is what (I hope;-) makes this story interesting.

The Decision

I thought about going to Milwaukee LAST weekend to see my Yellow Jackets play in their first NCAA Tournament since 2001. In fact, one of my college roommates took his son. However, other family commitments made that trip impossible from the "get go". After we won the weekend, making it into the Sweet 16, I REALLY wanted to find a way to go to see us play in St. Louis, the city I left (when I graduated from high school) to attend Georgia Tech 25 years ago. However, because of other things previously planned for Friday night (a month ago) and Saturday morning, I knew that the earliest I could make the trip would be Saturday afternoon (which obviously meant that Tech had to beat Nevada Friday night as well;-)

Unfortunately, Saturday morning I sprained my ankle playing tennis (the same one B.J. Elder sprained in the first two minutes of our game against Nevada - I yelled "B.J. Elder" when it happened), so driving to St. Louis even with cruise control was not going to be easy ... even if I could find a place to stay that night, something I'd thus far neglected to arrange. However, with the game not scheduled to start until 2:40 PM EST on Sunday, I thought if I could find someone else CRAZY enough to drive with me, we could still leave EARLY the next morning and drive back after the game (did I mention I had to be back in Atlanta for an 8 AM appointment Monday?).

What about tickets? Well, that same college roommate of mine who went to the games in Milwaukee was already in St. Louis with his family AND another college roommate of mine (the three of us had previously "road tripped" to a Tech football game in 1990 when we beat #1 UVA on our way to the National Championships that year, but that's another story;-) and his son. So, I knew they could help me score a couple of tickets. In fact, after a quick phone call to one of them, I was pretty much assured I could get tickets at below face value!

So, I started calling the most rapid Tech and/or basketball fans I knew, who weren't already in St. Louis, late on Saturday afternoon. I struck out four times, actually five if you count my tennis partner who also happens to be a Kansas alum (he said "let's fly" until I checked and found out it'd be almost $1,000 in coach!). So, I'd pretty much given up the idea (there was NO WAY I could do a 17 hour round-trip by myself in one day without a serious risk of falling asleep at the wheel on the way back). In fact, after I watched the thrilling end to the OSU-St. Joe game, I went out an bought some beer and dip planning to invite some friends over to watch the game on our 55" HDTV Sunday.

When I got back from the grocery store, there was a message from that other roommate who was in St. Louis that I hadn't been able to reach before when I'd called about ticket availability. He said "why don't you use frequent flyer miles?" I said "because I don't have the 50,000 points Delta requires (to guarantee a seat) and I doubt there are any 25,000 point seats left for tomorrow". He said "you don't know till you try", so I did.

Well, the Delta agent I spoke with confirmed that there were no more 25,000 point seats left but then added that since I did have 40,000 miles (43,026 to be exact;-) that I could go first class and that there were first class seats available. The specific flights available were tight relative to game time, but with luck I'd make it there and back. So, I went for it! Of course, then I got put into Delta's automated redemption system which informed me that I didn't have enough miles after all (effective March 15, you need 45,000 for a first class award), so I had to purchase 2,000 miles for $50 as well as pay a rapid redemption fee ($75), a 9/11 fee ($5), and applicable taxes ($18). Total flight cost - $148 - for first class, which beat the $992 coach ticket I'd have had to buy (and I still have 26 Skymiles left over;-)

The Trip

Sunday morning, I got up, had breakfast with the wife and kids (helped one of them with their math homework), then left for the airport. No traffic on Sunday morning and the usual park-and-ride worked fine. Got through security and to the gate an hour early. As far as I could tell, I was the only fool on the airplane headed for the game. The flight was on time (had to be!), but there was no food even in first class so I was starving by the time I got to St. Louis. Once we landed, on my hobbled ankle, I had to walk at least a mile from my arrival gate to the Metrolink (a train service from the airport to downtown for $3, wasn't there when I lived in St. Louis) and thankfully caught the 12:30 train (packed with Jayhawk fans) else I probably wouldn't have made the 1:40 game 'cause I made it to the Edward Jones Dome at about 1:15 PM CST. Met my buddy outside, paid him $60 for the ticket, and we went in. On the way to our seats, I picked up a $5 slice of pizza and thankfully still had a bottle of water in my pocket from the plane. We settled in our seats just in time to see the last few minutes of pregame warmup.

The Edward Jones Dome -

We were in section 101F, pretty good seats! However, Tech fans were outnumbered 20,000 to 3,000 or worse. The few times that Kansas made a run or led, it was VERY loud and hostile. But, for us, it was just like playing a road game in the ACC (where we faired pretty well this year;-) I should mention that there were a fair number of Mizzou (University of Missouri) fans there, who hate the Jayhawks - their Big 12 rival, out of the "other" 7,000 or so fans. And, there were about 10,000 empty seats ... and this is the city that will be hosting the Final Four next year?

The Game

What can I say? You probably either watched it or read about it already. I think it was key for us to control the game, which thanks to Jarrett Jack we did. We led all but about two minutes of the 45 minutes played (40 + 5 minutes overtime). Not having watched it on TV, I have no idea what the commentators said or were noticing so I'll give you my unvarnished impressions:

Obviously, Jarrett Jack played great, which was no surprise to anyone (like me;-) who has seen him play 30+ games this year. With Jack, it's usually about minutes played. Sometimes he gets a couple of early fouls which limit his minutes to less than 30 in a given game, and we suffer accordingly. But if he plays 35+ minutes, we usually win.

However, as much as you've read and heard about Jack and/or if you haven't watched us play very much this season, you should know that DEPTH was the key to our getting to the Final Four. To play the St. Louis regional without B.J. Elder, our leading scorer, even though he did get some minutes as a decoy yesterday, is one thing. To play without Elder AND Marvin Lewis's (who led us with 23 points on Friday against Nevada) offense, who scored his only point on a free throw in overtime, is incredible, a testament to our system of "interchangeable above average athletic parts".

Luke Schenscher & Clarence Moore - huge games from both these guys. How many 7-foot white guys are there who can run the floor on a fast break, catch a pass, and softly lay it in as well as Luke did yesterday? Have many time have you seen a focused, committed Senior step up and lead his team by significantly raising his game at tournament time? You saw both yesterday. Will Bynum, biggest bucket on Friday night (reverse layup) and again in OT on Sunday (the big 3, only our third of the game, a season low). Quality inside offense and defense (especially key rebounds) by Isma'il Muhammad too. Even our defensive specialist who got into a bit of foul trouble on Sunday, Anthony McHenry, had a key block early in the game and key basket on an offensive rebound late in the game. And, our turnovers were lower than usual (12?). Not great, but 5 or 6 lower than our average (I think;-) which is good considering our transition game, which can be error prone at times.

Savoring victory -

Realizing I had a flight to catch at 5:40 PM CST and the game (including overtime) didn't end until after 4:10 or so, I thought I had a little while to soak up the postgame atmosphere. A young man wearing a Tech hat was rushing out saying something about catching his plane and, after verifying we were on the same flight, I said "don't let 'em leave without me". Knowing that the rest of the country was now watching Duke/Xavier from Atlanta (the city I'd left earlier in the day), I knew I had a chance to capture the "cutting down the net" celebration on the video camera I'd brought, so I did. We also took pictures of each other below the scoreboard, etc.. However, I started to get nervous as it closed on 4:30 so I headed out in search of the Metrolink station.

The Trip Home

Once outside, I noticed it was raining heavily and the crowds were still huge and streaming out in all directions. I ran towards where I remember exiting from the Metrolink earlier only to pass long cordoned off (with yellow police tape) lines of people trying to do the same. It took me about a block to realize that this was the line I needed to be in! So, I kept running, past the Metrolink stairway entrance leading down into the street, to the other side and other entrance. Same thing! I thought, OMG, I'm not going to make it home tonight. But I kept running on my Elder-ankle, towards Busch Stadium and past the Jefferson Memorial (that's the Gateway Arch for you non-locals;-) I was thinking that I would catch a cab, but needed to find a major hotel to get one. It was then that I saw a Marriott and ran with renewed energy. Did I mention it was pouring down rain and every time I crossed a street I had to run through deep puddles at the curbs?

I finally saw a taxi as I got to the Marriott but he didn't stop when I waved him down so I followed him thinking "he" would lead me to the taxi stand. Then, he stopped to drop off his passenger in front of the hotel and I asked him if he could take me to the airport, he replied "sure". Of course, traffic was pretty bad already and the rain only compounded things but I hoped for the best. The fact that the cab driver said "oh sh*t, I should have gone the other way" once we were committed to going north towards I-70 didn't help matters (for me anyway, I'm sure it made his fare higher though). In either case, a drive which normally takes 10-15 minutes took 35-40 but I still got to the airport 15-20 minutes before takeoff time. I then ran to the gate only to get stopped by airport security reminding me that I couldn't get past without a boarding pass. Still though, even after backtracking through the airport to do that and then through security to the gate, I had time to grab some food to take on the plane after verifying with the Delta agent that indeed there was no food for me on this flight (even in first class) either.

Once on the plane with 10 minutes to spare, I sat back to eat my polish sausage with the Amstel Light the flight attendant brought me when I noticed something familiar. That same guy in the Tech hat (who was leaving the Edward Jones Dome for this flight, before me) was sitting in the seat in front of me, with his Dad. I said "thanks for holding the plane for me" and then, after I related my trials about getting to the airport on time, his Dad said "oh, I wish we'd have known, we had a rent-a-car and you could've ridden with us". There were a lot of Tech fans on the plane, including the local sports radio station guys, and the pilot said a few things (e.g. that he was wishing for a Tech-Duke final and "Go Jackets") before we got underway. Another guy in first class with his cellphone (after he was told to turn it off by the flight attendant) kept us up-to-date as long as possible with the Duke-Xavier score, till there were about 8-9 minutes left in that game. So, we didn't know till we landed what the final score was in that one (or who won, for sure anyway;-)

Final notes

I graduated from Georgia Tech twenty years ago and I think I can say without reservation that yesterday's game, with the possible exception of sitting in the UVA student section when we beat #1 VA in 1990 (I missed the Citrus Bowl against Nebraska that year 'cause I was in Kauai and had to watch it on a 13" B&W TV), was the highlight of my college sports portfolio of firsthand experiences (which also includes tying #1 Notre Dame in football in 1980!). BTW, Tech was the only team in the Elite 8 whose football team also won a bowl game this past season.

Total cost for this adventure ~ $280
Value of my March MADNESS - PRICELESS

One last thing

The ACC increased its percentage of teams left in this tournament through every round, from 6/64 to 3/16 to 25% and now 50%. Can the the ACC be at 100% after Saturday (or at least Monday;-) night?
Copyright 1996-2020 trademark and the "Fool" logo is a trademark of The Motley Fool, Inc. Contact Us