ESPN lauds frenzied Mountain West, Pac-12 title games


So after the entire panel of ESPN’s college basketball experts was through coronating Michigan State as 2014 NCAA champions before the ink was dry on the bracket — Sebastian the Ibis, the University of Miami mascot, was said to be leaning toward Stephen F. Austin just for grins before he, too, toed the company line and picked the Spartans — they threw it back to SportsCenter anchors Scott Van Pelt and Stuart Scott for a final word on the prelude to March Madness.

I speak of the myriad conference tournaments, most of which culminated in a flurry of blocking calls that might have been called charges, or vice versa, and a flurry of net cutting and confetti falling from rafters.

(A blocking-charge call on the big guy at Cal State Northridge was called a charge, nullifying what would have been a game-winning basket and preventing Reggie Theus’ team from qualifying for the Big Dance in his first season there.)

Confetti flew from rafters at the MGM Grand where UCLA upset Arizona in a thrilling Pac-12 tournament championship game played before a frenzied sellout crowd.

It was just as thrilling and frenzied and sold out exactly 1.7 miles down Tropicana Avenue at the Thomas & Mack Center, where New Mexico upset San Deigo State for the Mountain West crown.

Confetti did not fly from rafters at the T&M, though, probably because the Boise State football team, which runs the conference, said no.

The tautness of these games and the incredible atmosphere did not go unnoticed by ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt, who did not coronate Michigan State as 2014 NCAA champions, but said this (after he mentioned there is no better place to watch March Madness than in a Las Vegas sports book):

“But how about Saturday, though? UCLA and Arizona, New Mexico and San Diego State, playing at the exact same time but in different desert venues — and both were absolutely as intense as you could possibly hope to endure.”

Stuart Scott then started talking. I turned the volume down.

It was late at night — this was during the second or third repeat of the 90-minute SportsCenter — and I thought he might yell “Booyah!” and wake up the dogs.