Your live blogger for this game will be Wes, a Big XII aficionado. He wrote a couple columns for CollegeHumor before it was cool.
It's arguably the greatest day of the sports year, and I'm here to help kick off the third leg of it live blog style. That's right, it's Texas vs. Minnesota. Longhorns vs. Gophers. Barnes vs. Smith. Chris Mihm's alma mater vs. Joel Pryzbilla's alma mater. Six Flags vs. The Mall of America.
What do we know about these two teams heading into tonight's matchup? Texas, led by all-conference battering ram Dexter Pittman, made it into the tournament by finishing the regular season as the #5 team in the Big 12. That's right, the same Big 12 in which teams #1-3 and #5-7 are dancing, and the little ol' #4 team gets the shaft. Even Will Hunting can't figure out the math behind this one.
As for the Gophers, they're led by Saul Smith's dad - a guy who I hear has a National Championship under his belt. The #9 team from the Big Ten upset #8 Northwestern in the first round of the conference tournament before being knocked out by Michigan State. Apparently they don't understand rank order here either, as #6 Penn State and #8 Northwestern are both NIT'ing.
But none of that matters now. It's March Madness time, and we can all take pleasure in the fact that ESPN has unplugged their Joe Lunardi bracketology robot until next year. Let's play some ball.
Pregame: VCU is getting some serious love in the pregame show. That should crush any chances they have of pulling off an upset against UCLA. In other news, North Carolina squeaked by Radford while UConn was able to fend off the Mocs of Chattanooga. That can only mean the older lady in your office is probably mathematically eliminated from the pool now.
7:10 PM: Jim Nantz just said Abu-Shamala. This should be a good one. Clark Kellogg just chimed in that Texas should try to get the ball up court. I would hope so.
7:13: Abu-Shamala just laid one in to give the Gophers a quick 7-0 lead. I thought the Big Ten was supposed to be a defensive conference...
7:18: Nantz just announced that Pittman has lost almost 90 pounds since his arrival as a freshman, putting him at a lean 293 pounds. He still looks like a tight end to me. Meanwhile Minnesota holds a 13-5 lead.
7:27: Damion James cuts the lead to 15-13 before Connor Atchley ties it up with a dunk. Minnesota regains the lead at 17-15 before Nick Cage saves the world. Oh wait, that last one was a commercial.
7:30: We're back from commercial. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that there has never been a bigger dork-to-hotness gap than the one between the Texas pep band and their dance squad. Those girls could be naked and I bet the tuba player wouldn't bat an eye. Minnesota 20, Texas 18.
7:33: "Texas is the same team as a year ago...with one big exception: D.J. Augustin," Jim Nantz announces. By my calculations they're pretty much the same team as two years ago, minus Augustin and Kevin Durant. And 90 pounds of Dexter Pittman. Still 20-18.
7:40: There was a point in time when Gene Hackman was a well-respected actor. Then he was the coach in "The Replacements." Now he's doing voice-over work for Lowe's commercials. If he comes to my door tomorrow trying to sell me a vacuum cleaner I probably wouldn't bat an eye. Texas comes back after the break to take their first lead before little Lawrence Westbrook puts Minnesota back on top 26-25.
7:45: Travis Bush becomes the 12th Minnesota player to step on the court. Fifth graders giggle while basketball fans marvel at how Tubby Smith manages the game. The shuffling seems to be working, as a free throw from Westbrook puts the Gophers back on top 29-28.
7:53: Clark Kellogg takes a trip down memory lane as Texas takes a 33-29 lead after two Dexter Pittman free throws. I guess he used to play basketball against the father of Ralph Sampson III or something. I was too busy trying to count the number of vowels in Abu-Shamala to pay attention.
7:57: Down 36-32, Minnesota calls time out with 0:22 left in the first half. The Horns are leading and Howie Long is hawking Chevy's on TV. Everyone in Texas must be smiling.
8:04: Westbrook does his best Denis Clemente impression as he hits a quick three to cut the lead to one. A.J. Abrams responds with a trey of his own and Texas goes to the locker room up 39-35. Both coaches will make the necessary half-time adjustments as coverage is switched to the American-Villanova game. In an absolutely shocking turn of events, American is leading 38-31. A confused Toby Keith just wrote a song about it.
8:08: There's feeling good, there's feeling great and then there's the feeling of hitting the bathroom after being afraid to leave your laptop while live-blogging the first half of a basketball game. And if you're still following this, be sure to check out the other live blogs while we break.
8:23: The second half is now underway. A quick Damion James basket puts Texas up 41-35. James makes one of his two free throws, and one of the kids from "The Sandlot" checks in for Minnesota.
8:29: A.J. Abrams hits another three-pointer to put the 'Horns up 47-39. That guy can flat out stroke. Big 12 fans everywhere can sleep easy knowing that guy will never step foot in their arena again. (I looked up while typing that last sentence and saw Steve Nash shove his banana into a Vitamin Water. And no, that wasn't a euphemism).
8:34: Clark Kellogg notices that Lawrence Westbrook hasn't taken a shot yet this half at the same moment he drills a three. Texas has their lead cut to 47-44.
8:37: Abrams drills two more threes to give Texas a 53-44 advantage. If Tubby doesn't find an answer for him quick this one could get ugly pretty quick.
8:38: I spoke too soon. Kellogg's "Little Fella" drains another to make it 56-44 Texas. This should keep the folks in the Lone Star state happy until they realize the Cowboys signed John Kitna this offseason.
8:46: 61-46 Texas as I switch over to the MMOD player while CBS switches over to coverage of the pending mayhem about to ensue if American can hang on to their lead against Villanova. If you haven't checked out GreggyD's coverage of that game yet, now would be a good time. (http://deadspin.com/5175677/ncaa-t…)
8:58: Texas is up 64-52 as Minnesota calls a timeout with 6:37 left. It's been the A.J. Abrams show in Greensboro. Jim Nantz just had the EXACT same thought. If that's all it takes to cover the Masters every April, sign me up.
9:03: The shots aren't falling for Minnesota as Westbrook, an 85% free throw shooter, misses both attempts at the charity stripe. Texas will most likely try to eat up the clock and Pittman will most likely try to eat up the basketball.
9:06: Jamal Abu-Shamala just met the wrong end of a Damion James dunk. James will shoot free throws after these messages from Old Spice, the official sponsor of both NASCAR and pre-pubescent kids across the country.
9:12: Conner "KU Killer" Atchley picks up a foul, leading to two free throws from Ralph Sampson's kid. Clark Kellogg again mentions that he used to play basketball while Dexter Pittman throws one down. Texas leads 74-60. I feel like the announcer from "Major League" at this point.
9:16: Nantz points out that Tubby Smith made the tournament with Minnesota while Kentucky toils away in the NIT. It seems that Kentucky fans wish they hadn't treated him as harshly as they did. Somewhere Ashley Judd is weeping over a glass of Johnny Walker.
9:18: Texas is up 74-62 as Abrams steals the ball with just over a minute left. Westbrook and Abrams are your players of the game, as it appears Rick Barnes' boys will advance to the round of 32.
9:20: Texas 76, Minnesota 62. They'll play the winner of the Duke-Binghampton game later tonight. A big thanks to Sussman and the rest of the Deadspin crew for letting me live blog the game tonight. Be sure to check out the rest of the live blogs tonight/tomorrow as we continue to fuel the economic downfall that is March Madness.