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Checkin’ In at the Halfway Point

Friends,

As I come off my leg of the KSR/CBS College Basketball Road Trip for Beisner to take over the second half as the prerequisite “guy who’s exhausted becauses he has an infant at home but is exhilerated to be out in and a part of the real world again,” I thought it might be fun to take a quick look back, here at the halfway mark, at what we’ve seen so far. Can you hit play on Green Day’s “Time Of Your Life” for me? Yeah, it’s on that CD player. Cool, thanks.

Marquette/Milwaukee

Getting to Milwaukee wasn’t tough, and as it was our first stop we were walking on air, fresh-faced and ready to take the bull by the horns. Top notch media digs as well (beef stroganoff and a lovely photo of Michelle Kwan). Great atmosphere for a game and a pretty big home base in the Bradley Center, but a really bizarre bar scene on campus. When we walked in, there were literally five or six small groups of people having what looked to be mini-dance-offs. It was like bizarro You Got Served. To top it off, the bar we were in was absolutely packed until 12:30, when immediately everyone just walked out and went to another bar that everyone is supposed to go to at 12:30. So we went there too, and it was almost identical to the first bar. I’m not sure what all this is about, but as evidenced by all the dancing going on, this process seems to please Marquette students a great deal.

Northern Iowa/Cedar Falls

If you’ve been following this site at all, you’re aware of the snow situation in Cedar Falls by now. Going to Northern Iowa couldn’t have seemed less of a pain in the ass at the time, but that tiny arena out there in the flat, snowy middle of nowhere was absolutely insane. A complete surprise and absolute treat. One minute we’re driving in very little visibility, the next we’ve got the entire Panther student section pressed against us and screaming in our ears. Matt and I were looking at each other with a “where are we and what’s going on here?” look, but seeing that tiny school and town support that college team was really nice. Very reminiscent of Kentucky high school basketball, actually.

DePaul/Chicago

As you know, DePaul wasn’t supposed to be part of the trip, but snow forced it to become part of the trip. The AllState Center is a complete craphole (If you’ve ever been to Cincinnati Gardens, it’s like that) and there are hardly any DePaul fans there. Not that I blame them really, because their gym sits up next door to the airport in a part of town where it’s probably more likely that you’d be shot in the back of the head by someone than watch a division 1 team play ball. After that it was back into the Chicago traffic for what seemed like forever and on to East Lansing.

Michigan State/East Lansing

Our initial thought was that East Lansing was filled with pretentious, self-important douches, and in a way their nightlife scene showed that to be true. There were some outliers, but overall it seems like it takes itself way too seriously. We actually went in one bar — paid $5 to get in — and it was just so awful that it was impossible to stay in it. That said, the Izzone the next day was what college basketball is all about, and it was unbelievably cool to be in the room with the same giant group of organized fans I’d watched on television so many times. Michigan State does a lot right and Rupp/UK should take a few tips.

All of this recap, is to lead me to a greater point here. We have, over the last few weeks, received a lot of well-wishes from you guys who read the site, and more than a few comments where readers say they’re “jealous” of what we’re doing right now with this road trip. But the truth is that it’s not as hard to get out there and see some other teams as you might think. I wouldn’t recommend telling your boss you’re going for eleven days, but there are certainly many schools and programs within driving distance of Kentucky which would make great road trips with your buddies or your kids.

It’s really been eye-opening to get out there and see other teams play and other fans root, and if you have a love of college basketball like we all here do, I’d encourage you to look into taking a little road trip (or even a series of tiny road trips) of your own to check out some other venues and make your own adventures out of them. It’s a real blessing what we’re being able to do now, but at its core it’s really nothing that any of us with a little ingenuity could do. Seeing other schools play is precisely why we love the NCAA Tourney, so why wouldn’t it be just as great to grab some friends or your son or daughter and go check out another scene? Overall, it gives one such a broader view of the college basketball landscape — and I think the KSR crew may come out of this with a couple of smaller schools to root for in the early rounds of the Big Dance from this trip. I guess what I’m saying is this: while we’re very glad you’re following our road trip, think about making a road trip for yourself. I now speak from experience; it’s completely worth it.

Sorry none of that was funny. Feel free to give me your letter grades accordingly, as per usual, and tell me how terrible this post was. But thanks for being there for us as we make the switch to CBS for the time being. It’s great to know you guys are alongside, and things will all return to normal around here very soon.

Article written by C.M. Tomlin