This week I’m going to deviate from any major words of wisdom like I have done in the past. These are just a few key events which have occurred over my spring break this week which I would like to share with you in hopes of you following suit in the future.
I spent this past week with my aunt and uncle in the southwest; I stayed at their house outside of Phoenix, Ariz. for a few days and we then hopped on over to Albuquerque, N.M. to see a couple of March Madness basketball games. It was a spectacular several days, rest mixed with activity and much to look forward to down the road.
In Arizona we went to see a play in downtown Phoenix, saw a Cactus League baseball game between the Angels and Diamondbacks, had time to soak up some sunshine and see a couple of the latest movies.
In Albuquerque we took a terrific two-hour tour of the city and the surrounding area, learning much about the history of New Mexico and what makes it unique (for example, did you know that New Mexico is the only state with “USA” printed on its license plates to prevent confusing it with the country of Mexico?).
The “Old Town” area of Albuquerque is filled with western style jewelry and garments, most notably its turquoise necklaces and shawls. The weather was extremely cooperative; usually in the 70s with clean, crisp air, considering the elevation is over 5,000 feet. We got a chance to see live Native American music on the street with dancers, adding to the cultural element.
But the primary reason we ventured to the Old West was for the basketball games. Last year we took a day trip to Tucson to watch an afternoon’s worth of games, but this time we upped the ante and decided to attend two days of March Madness.
What TV viewers don’t get to experience is the intensity the crowds bring to each game to support their teams. At The Pit, the arena for the University of New Mexico basketball and the site for this year’s games in Albuquerque, there is a distinct fan section for each team, something not found at a typical college basketball game.
One ticket allows you to one “session,” which consists of two games. There are two sets of two games in a day at one site. It is interesting to see all these people from all over the nation converging to watch their teams play. Many people from many different walks of life at one place for one reason: basketball.
At the games, if you aren’t a fan of either team, it isn’t hard to start cheering for one. During the Colorado vs. UNLV game, the 11th-seeded Buffaloes from Boulder, Colo. pulled ahead for a 20-point lead in the second half, luring many neutral watchers to the underdog’s side. Colorado ended up with the upset win and will play No. 3 Baylor in the next round.
Baylor didn’t have an easy road to the next round either. It had to fend off a feisty South Dakota State team that raced ahead to a 14-3 lead five minutes into the game. While SDSU head coach Scott Nagy stood calm and collected as the Jackrabbits widened their lead, their fan base was going ballistic. I had never even heard of this school before the tournament and found myself giving them applause for the effort. Baylor got numerous defensive stops in the second half and prevented an early exit from the Big Dance.
Granted, these games don’t draw as many fans compared to the regional finals and the Final Four, but if you’re itching to see an upset, there isn’t a better round to pick than the first round (or technically the “second round” nowadays). With Colorado’s win, No. 15 Norfolk State’s major upset over Missouri, No. 15 Lehigh’s victory over powerhouse Duke and No. 13 Ohio stunning Michigan, these games make you want to become a part of the experience.
The tournament will not fall on URI's spring break nor Marquette's spring break in 2013, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't go anywhere. The trip doesn’t need to centrally focus on basketball games, especially if it is a city you have never visited. If you chose not to do much traveling this break, heed my advice: put some madness into your March.
A big thank you to my aunt Patty and my uncle Bill for their tremendous hospitality this past week!
Here's to get a head start on planning next year's vacation if your spring break falls on these dates. Here are the sites for the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament:
SECOND AND THIRD ROUNDS (Mar. 21-24)
Auburn Hills, Mich.
Salt Lake City, Utah
San Jose, Calif.
REGIONAL SITES (Mar. 28-31)
Los Angeles, Calif.
*Fourth site TBD*
FINAL FOUR (Apr. 6, 8)