MY NEIGHBOR THE college basketball fan showed up at my door with a long face yesterday, because he was sad and also because he has a long face. I guess he was born that way.
"They're all losing," he said. "They're falling like flies."I know it isn't wise to count your chickens before they hatch or your winners before they win, but he had made plans for today. Plans to be in front of the TV from morning until midnight, about 14 hours. He wasn't going to leave his chair for anything. He had arranged to be fed liquid Cheez-Wiz through an IV. He didn't want to miss the commercials.
"Now it's all spoiled," he whined. "Spoiled. Now I have to do something productive, like paint the house."
By a happy convergence of schedules and talented teams, this was supposed to be a great day to be a basketball fan in Utah. The Utes and the Lady Utes, both nationally ranked, would play in the Western Athletic Conference finals. Utah State and Weber State, seeded No. 1 and 2, respectively, in their conference tournaments, also would be playing on Saturday, if everything followed form.
For a Utah college hoop fan, it didn't get any better than this.
So what happens? The Lady Utes, who were 21-4, lost their first game of the tournament - to BYU, a team that had won just six of 14 league games in the regular season. So much for the Lady Utes.
"Oh, well, I can still pull for the Utes and Big Boy," my neighbor said. "I still have the Gentlemen Utes."
No, he didn't. The Utes lost their first game of the tournament to Nevada-Las Vegas, a fifth-place team with 7-7 league record..
"How could this happen?" he moaned. "The Utes are ranked fifth in the nation, and they lose to a hyphenated school!"
Clearly, he was experiencing some March madness. I pointed out that he still had the Lady Cougars to pull for. "Fine," he said, "I like a Cinderella story as well as the next guy. I'll pull for the Cougs."
No such luck. The Lady Cougars lost to Rice.
"Great, they lose to one of the major food groups," my neighbor said afterward. "Where does this leave me? Weber State on tape delay?"
Not exactly, I said. I didn't know how to break this news to him. "Weber State lost to Montana State," I said after some silence.
"That does it," he said. "The second seed falls to the sixth seed. Let's just cancel March."
I tried to sound hopeful, but there was no denying that his big Saturday was sabotaged. The big day that wasn't. There are other places to turn, I told him. Utah State is playing in the semifinals of the Big West Conference tournament in Reno - tipoff 10:30 p.m. The game won't be televised, but if the Aggies win they can be seen in Sunday's finals on ESPN at 3 p.m.
"That leaves a lot of time to kill on Saturday," he said. "A man can paint a lot of house in that time."
There are other options, I said. Saturday is still a Dick Vitale kind of day. The Jazz will play the Bucks in Milwaukee, beginning at 7 p.m. in a game that will be televised live on Channel 14.
And the state high school tournament will be played at the Huntsman Center. Orem will play Mountain View for the 5A championship at 8:30 p.m. Provo will meet Mountain Crest at 6 p.m. for the 4A championship. It will be preceded by games that will decide third and fourth places, and fifth and sixth places. Meanwhile, the 1A finals will be played in Cedar City. He could still enjoy a glut of basketball.
"So what you're saying is I could still watch basketball day and night if I wanted to get off my rear end and drive," said my neighbor. "It would be just a little something to tide me over until the NCAA pairings are announced Sunday."
"Go paint your house," I said.