The Madness has officially hit me.
It's just after 5 p.m. Thursday, and all the "assets" (that's industry jargon) are in for the "wrap" featuring the Tarleton State basketball teams. I imagine in just a few minutes, I'll be proofing the final copies from our design center then sending them off to press for the world to see bright and early on Frid...well, today.
Today, speaking of which, is officially game day in the NCAA Division II Basketball Championships. While I'm en rout to DFW International Airport for my flight to Denver to cover Tarleton's men, the TexAnns will be on the court battling in the opening round of the South Central Regional in Canyon.
Going into the LSC Championship last week, it was a forgone conclusion that both the Texans and TexAnns would be in the field of 64 come NCAA time. So with neither club in do or die mode, the madness of March didn't really sweep me up.
Even when the Texans won the championship and the TexAnns dropped a heartbreaker in the final last Saturday, I still wasn't quite in March Madness mode.
But on Monday, with a flurry of activity such as purchasing airline tickets, pre-paying for bags, shuttles and parking and being sure that once I got to Denver I'd have a ride from the hotel to the games, it struck me. March is really here, and so is the madness. And I can't wait to be right in the middle of it.
It's especially mad in Stephenville, where fans are scurrying to follow the No. 3 Texans, the second seed behind No. 1 Metro State in the South Central Region, and the TexAnns, who own the third seed in their regional being hosted by West Texas A&M.
In case you've been hiding under a rock since November, here's a newsflash for ya: Both Tarleton teams have a shot. And not just in the sense that it's March and anything can happen. More like in the sense that Tarleton is good enough to beat anyone on any given day.
The TexAnns have one of the premier post players in the country in Kiara Wright, a determined hometown hero in Brianna Bledsoe and a rugged stalwart in Shanae Lowrance leading the way. Against top-seed West Texas A&M, the TexAnns have a win and two losses, with one of the losses by single digits in a hard fought conference tourney final.
And if you don't know the Tarleton men have a shot, then the rock you've been hiding under must have crushed your head a little too much. The Texans are 27-2, ranked first nationally in the Bennett Rankings and third by the National Associaton of Basketball Coaches, and have a 26th-year head coach in Lonn Reisman who has topped 550 wins at the school and won a pair of regionals already.
Oh, the Texans also have Chuck Guy, the Lone Star Conference Player of the Year, who Reisman believes is the best point guard in the country. Then there's LSC Championship MVP De'Andre Upchurch, the league's top scorer, the high-flying stunt-dunking Davene Carter and all that depth with guys like double-digit scorer Tashawn Mabry coming off the bench.
There's a 98-game winner in senior guard Coleman Furst, and some local flair in reserve post Jakob Damstra from Dublin.
Both Tarleton teams are favored to win their opening round games, and I believe both have the muster to contend for a spot in the regional final, a round where I've seen many crazy events in recent years.
The Derek Atwood tip-in at the buzzer to win Tarleton a regional in 2006 comes to mind. Unfortunately, so does the collapse by the Texans in 2008, when a 15-point lead evaporated against Central Oklahoma. Opposite sides of the emotional spectrum for Tarleton fans, but I believe it made my point.
It's March. It's mad. And this March, for local fans, is madder than most.
At least the hype can finally end and the games can begin.
Is it noon yet? Are the TexAnns on the court? Who's ready for a little March Madness, Tarleton style?