LIVE BLOG: Mark McCarter’s ‘Mark’s Madness’ NCAA tournament kickoff

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Mark McCarter

Mark McCarter

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Join me as I settle down to watch every minute of NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament play today.

From the first tip to the final buzzer, I’ll be at Buffalo Wild Wings at 2750 Carl T. Jones Drive. Come by and see me and make some predictions, watch a game, and eat some wings.

If you can’t be there in person, follow the fun and interact with me right here on this live blog. I’ll be updating it throughout the day with commentary, facts, and reaction to the games. Send me a Tweet: @markmccarter

The live blog below will update automatically.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:10 am

OK, first tip not far away. I’m gearing up for the marathon. Folks already filtering in. A combination of St. Patrick’s Day and one of the two best days in sports. This could be dangerous!

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:14 am

I keep scouring the bracket, trying to find Trump University. 

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:18 am

Duke gets first two points of the tournament. This game isn’t a gimmie. Remember how Mercer dumped Duke a couple of years ago in the first round.

Drew Galloway March 17, 201611:19 am
Check out Mark’s bracket:

Claire Aiello March 17, 201611:23 am

A number of you have asked about certain shows. There are several programming changes on WHNT due to the NCAA tournament. Check the link for more information.  By the way, CBS soaps aren’t airing.. the storyline will pick up Monday where it left off yesterday.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:27 am

On the subject of Trump University: I wrote a column for the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association griping about the First Four and how it spoils the experience for players and is just a money-grab. Here’s the link:

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:34 am

Final Four picks from some at our table: Mark Craig says: Kansas, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Michigan State.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:35 am

Bryan Dingo is going with Kansas, Oklahoma, Michigan State and — his hometown favorites — Xavier. Other than that off-the-wall pick, I think we’ve got a lot of chalk at our table.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:38 am

I’ve always liked and appreciated Duke. Got to see Duke win a national title or two in person. I root for Duke and I like Caoch K. But this Grayson Allen kinda makes Christian Laetner and JJ Reddick seem lovable.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:42 am

Basketball savant Danny Servick says Kansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Michigan State, with Kansas vs. Michigan State in finals and Kansas as champion.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:43 am

Butler has just tipped off against Texas Tech. Wow, it’d slipped my mind that Tubby Smith wound up at Texas Tech as head coach. Boy, has he left behind a lot of forwarding addresses.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:45 am

OK, I’ve got the over-under at 847 on the “Butler did it…” headlines across the country if it beats Texas Tech.

Drew Galloway March 17, 201611:48 am

Drew Galloway March 17, 201611:50 am

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:57 am

Good contingent from First Family Mortgage here at Buffalo Wild Wings and the bar is nearly packed already. 

Mark McCarter March 17, 201612:02 pm

First glass of sweet tea on the way. The over-under on sweet tea today: 15 glasses. Yes, my table is closest one to the men’s room.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201612:07 pm

Alabama A&M icon Michael Burns has Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Michigan State in his Final Four, with Kentucky to win it all.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201612:08 pm

UNC-Wilmington takes 43-40 lead into halftime against Duke. Not really surprising. 

Mark McCarter March 17, 201612:08 pm

Who is in your Final Four and who is your champion? Tweet me at @markmccarter and I’ll publish some.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201612:09 pm

From my self-satisfied friend Bryan Dingo as Duke-UNC-Wilmington halftime arrives: “Good. I picked Wilmington on two of my 10 brackets.”

Mark McCarter March 17, 201612:23 pm

This, from ESPN: Duke trailed at halftime in only one of its most recent 17 NCAA tournament games (2013 Elite 8 vs Louisville). Blue Devils lost that game.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201612:28 pm

Hoops is great and all, but one of the TVs here is showing some race where cars are towing boat trailers. Looks like slow-speed Talladega big one. And, on the subject of crashes, Duke is back on in second half.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201612:37 pm

Good visit with UAH coach Lennie Acuff. He’s going with his heart and picking Texas A&M for the Final Four. He also has Hawaii as a first-round upset winner. But he doesn’t feel as good as I do about my No. 12 Chattanooga over No. 5 Indiana pick later today.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201612:45 pm

OK, it’s a 16-3 Duke run in the first 6 minutes of the second half. Again, not unexpected. Watch UNCW make another run, get close then Duke survive the scare in last 4 minutes.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201612:53 pm

NCAA Tournament Thursday: The day when all of America asks this key question? “TruTV? What channel is that?”

Mark McCarter March 17, 201612:55 pm

That said, you might want to check out Butler-Texas Tech. It’s shaping up to be a great game.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20161:03 pm

OK. A quick timeout to join Brett Beaird and Harold Bugg on the radio, The Score in Florence.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20161:23 pm

Colorado goes into halftime with cozy lead over UConn. Colorado feels like one of those unknowns that might make some noise. A win here, then shreds everybody’s bracket by upsetting Kansas on Saturday? A scenario to watch, for sure.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20161:28 pm

Sometimes I scare myself. I said UNCWilmington would make one more run at Duke, then Duke would pull away in last four minutes. And guess who just got a borderline call — or bad call says announcer — for a potential 3-point play with 1:35 left?

Mark McCarter March 17, 20161:28 pm

Oops. A UNCWIlmington 3. Not so fast, Mark.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20161:35 pm

Golf legend Spike McRoy joins the table: His Final Four is Villanova, Virginia, North Carolina and Oklahoma. With Oklahoma winning.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20161:35 pm

Perfect timing: Bacon cheeeburger arrives as Duke wraps it up against UNCWilmington 93-85. See you after lunch!

Drew Galloway March 17, 20161:41 pm

Mark has a mouth full of food, but it’s Butler over Texas Tech in the first round at 71-61.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20162:18 pm

OK, I’m back. And so is UConn, now up on Colorado. Nice second-half run. In other games, Iowa State knocking off Iona. Virginia-Hampton and Yale-Baylor in early stages.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20162:20 pm

Stan Pylant, our boss at WHNT has come to check on us. We had to look really busy and well-behaved for a while. Now he’s gone. Back to normal.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20162:22 pm

TV just did a graphic. Two most famous alums from Hampton: Rick Mahorn and Booker T. Washington. What opposite ends of the spectrum.

Drew Galloway March 17, 20162:27 pm

Check out what UAH basketball coach Lennie Acuff had to say to Mark about the tournament:

Mark McCarter March 17, 20162:44 pm

Colorado is trailing and keeps fouling UConn. Says an Alabama fan at the table, “If it was Alabama that Colorado was fouling, they’d be up by six”

Mark McCarter March 17, 20162:46 pm

UConn hangs on to beat Colorado 74-67, joining Duke & Butler in the next round. Assuming Iowa State holds Iona, I’m off to 4-0 start in the bracket. Which only means the usual bracket disaster will happen later in the day instead of early.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20162:52 pm

A great quiz on Sports Illustrated website: See if you can name the hometown of some of these NCAA teams.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20162:59 pm

This is the sixth one of these marathon days I’ve done at Buffalo Wild Wings to watch all the Thursday NCAA games. Each time has been a blast, with some of the usual suspects joining me, and some new faces, too. Brett Beaird just asked me on the radio about it and asked if I had a book in mind about it. I told him if I did, it sure wouldn’t be in the Diet/Self-Help section of the book store.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20163:08 pm

Watching Iona play always reminds me of Jim Valvano, one of my favorite coaches to have been around several times. He was Iona coach for a while. He had a line he always told: “I’d introduce myself as ‘Jim Valvano, Iona College. People would say, ‘You look awfully young to own a college.'”

Mark McCarter March 17, 20163:27 pm

A pair of No. 1 seeds — Virginia and Kansas — now in action. As we’ve all learned in history class, no No. 16 has ever defeated a No. 1. It’s been interesting to hear various pundits predict that inevitability — if not this year, soon. I’d have Oregon as vulnerable this time against a different draw. 

Mark McCarter March 17, 20163:34 pm

Two Baylor players in each other’s faces. Nice team unity.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20163:35 pm

Baylor uniforms are apparently inspired by Sharpie Hi-Liter pens.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20164:03 pm

Yale is looking pretty impressive. Really well-coached team. But it’s a long 5:50 to go to clinch this one against the Hi-Liter pens.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20164:10 pm

We have two 5 vs. 12 games going on, with potential for upsets — Baylor vs. No. 12 Yale and Purdue against No.12 Arkansas-Little Rock. This has been the most popular upset line for us bracket junkies. A factoid for you: Last year, there were no 12 over 5 upsets for only the fourth time since 1985. But from 2008-14 the No. 12s pulled upsets 15 out of 28 times. 

Drew Galloway March 17, 20164:11 pm

Mark McCarter March 17, 20164:14 pm

Right about now, 12 million people who fill out brackets are saying in unison, “Dang, something told me I should have picked Yale but I didn’t.”

Mark McCarter March 17, 20164:33 pm

Yale is this year’s first traditional No. 12 to upset a No. 5. Nerve-wracking 79-75 win over Baylor. Hashtag this one as bracketbusted.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20164:35 pm

Upsets like Yale are what makes this one of the two best days in sports. What upset is looming later today in your mind?

Mark McCarter March 17, 20164:44 pm

Been paying so much attention to Yale-Baylor, just noticed the other No. 12, Arkansas-Little Rock, is only down three to Purdue at the half.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20164:47 pm

Perhaps a real beneficiary of the Yale upset win: Duke. It will play the Bulldogs on Saturday, then a beatable Oregon, St. Joes or Cincinnati in the Sweet 16. Those who picked Duke for Final Four on tradition alone may have some really smart brackets two weeks from now.

Drew Galloway March 17, 20164:53 pm

Are you in the 6.7%?

Mark McCarter March 17, 20165:14 pm

The late afternoon games are going according to chalk. Kansas rolling over Austin Peay, Purdue up 9 over Little rock at the 12-minute media timeout.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20165:32 pm

Getting ready for brief live shot at the end of the 5:30 show, then time to really get my game-face on: My scrappy Chattanooga Mocs going up against Indiana at 6:10.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20166:12 pm

OK, name the three most famous former Chattanooga basketball players, other than Gerald Wilkins, who played in the NBA?

Mark McCarter March 17, 20166:13 pm

Arkansas-Little Rock is awfully stubborn. Sticking around to chase Purdue into a second overtime in another 5 vs. 12 game.

Drew Galloway March 17, 20166:14 pm

Pro golfer Spike McRoy rotated through Mark’s cast of characters to give his thoughts on the tournament and talk about pro golf. Check out what he had to say here:

Mark McCarter March 17, 20166:16 pm

Here’s the answer to the Chattanooga trivia: Hugh Beaumont (who played Beaver’s dad in Leave it to Beaver), Dennis Haskins (Mr. Belding from Saved by the Bell) and Terrell Owens. Bonus trivia: Framed on the wall over Mr. Belding’s desk one season was a Chattanooga Mocs’ team picture. You’re welcome.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20166:28 pm

Really impressed by Arkansas-Little Rock and really unimpressed by Purdue. Forget the upset business. Wondering if it wasn’t a little overseeded as a 5. And now we have back-to-back 5s going down when overanxious guards lose control of the ball in the paint — Baylor and now a Purdue miscue.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20166:29 pm

Come on Mocs, and make it three No. 12s to pull an upset today.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20166:32 pm

Through eight games, my bracket is 6-2. Both of them were 12s upsetting 5s. They’re making up for not having any 12-over-5s last year.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20166:46 pm

Between 1997-2009, I went to 11 out of 12 NCAA Final Fours. My favorite memories are more off-the-floor moments, of press room friendships and interesting travel. But my top 5 game memories, you ask:

Mark McCarter March 17, 20166:47 pm

No. 5: Gerry McNamara, the little guard from Syracuse, lighting things up in a win over Kansas in 2003 that ended with Hakeem Warrick’s key blocked shot.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20166:48 pm

No. 4: UConn suffocating Duke’s Trajan Langdon on the game’s last possession in 1999 to win UConn’s first national championship.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20166:49 pm

No. 3: Kansas guard Mario Chalmers with “Mario’s Miracle,” the game-tying shot that sent the game into overtime against Memphis in 2008.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20166:51 pm

No. 2: C.M. Newton, one of my favorite all-time people, was the chair of the NCAA committee the year Kentucky — where he was director of athletics — won in San Antonio and he presented the trophy to his coach, Tubby Smith.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20166:52 pm

No. 1: Mateen Cleaves of Michigan State got cheap-shotted by a Florida player and left with an injury. But when he came back out of the locker room and headed toward the MSU bench, the Hoosier Dome crowd erupted. It was enough to lead the Spartans to the 2000 title. Later, Cleaves would play for the late, hardly-lamented Huntsville Flight and I loved talking to him about that moment.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20166:55 pm

Lot of people are liking Miami as a Final Four darkhorse, or at least an Elite 8 shoo-in, but Buffalo — a 14 seed — is down only 2 at the half. Chattanooga hanging tough against Indiana. 

Mark McCarter March 17, 20166:58 pm

Just joined at the table by old friend Doug Martinson, a distinguished local attorney and recently retired hockey official. Ryan Cody did a great feature on Doug the other night. Watch it here.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20167:08 pm

That’s Hugh Beaumont — Ward Cleaver — front row on the left for Chattanooga basketball team back in the day.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20167:16 pm

People want to know if I’m doing this same all-day NCAA tournament tomorrow. Easy answer: No. After 12 hours, this is what I look like: 

Mark McCarter March 17, 20167:19 pm

Carolina only up by 1 at halftime, Indiana up by nine over Chattanooga. Surely Carolina should have learned from Duke’s near-miss.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20167:22 pm

Kudos to the First Family Mortgage gang. They’ve gotten second wind and hunkered down at their table again.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20167:35 pm

What a cool coincidence: I go down memory lane about old Final Fours and who pops up at the table but Bob Ludwig, the best publisher an old sportswriter could ever ask for and the guy who signed the checks for those trips. He put together one heck of a team for Times sports staff a couple of decades ago. 

Mark McCarter March 17, 20167:51 pm

Carolina and Indiana, those two historic names, pulling away from Florida Gulf Coast and Chattanooga, respectively. Miami can’t shake Buffalo. Buffalo. Reminds me it’s time to order wings….

Mark McCarter March 17, 20168:12 pm

Miami eliminates Buffalo and Indiana kicking the dirt on Chattanooga. We may get through today with only two upsets. If that’s the case, watch out on Friday. It never fails to have a relatively mild Thursday and Friday is berserk with upsets.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20168:28 pm

Sigh. Indiana 99, Chattanooga 74. But, some consolation: Dinner is served. Talk to you again in 45 minutes.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20169:06 pm

Almost down to the last four of the night: Providence-Southern Cal, as a 8 vs. a 9, oughta be interesting. And don’t be surprised to see Wichita State upset Arizona. Wichita, statistically, has one of the best defenses in the tournament. Kentucky-Stony Brook is a romp waiting to happen. After Utah finishes up with Fresno, Gonzaga takes center stage. Big front line will be challenge for Seton Hall and Zags are back in their traditional underdog role.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20169:16 pm

Is Sean Miller, the Arizona coach, sweating through his shirt that badly or is it just this TV? 

Mark McCarter March 17, 20169:21 pm

Hello, operator. This is John Calipari. I’d like to leave a wake-up call for my Kentucky team.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20169:26 pm

Utah wraps up 80-69 win over Fresno. More and more, I’m thinking we get out of today with only two significant upsets. I wouldn’t consider Gonzaga — an 11 seed vs. No. 6 Seton Hall — a tremendous upset.

Drew Galloway March 17, 20169:27 pm

Basketball agent Danny Servick chated with Mar.k McCarter about what it takes to go pro. Watch what he had to say here:

Mark McCarter March 17, 20169:40 pm

The wake-up call came. Kentucky up by 13 but Stony Brook doesn’t look a bit intimidated by name on the other jerseys.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20169:43 pm

What did we say about Wichita defense? Arizona with 19 points at the half and Shockers up 31-19. This after Wichita pitched something like a 20-0 shutout in last part of First Four win over Vanderbilt.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20169:47 pm

Here’s an item on Wichita defense: Over the course of the past three days, two opponents have managed only six field goals in Shockers’ last 29:09 of play.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20169:48 pm

USC leads Providence by 1 at the half, and Southern Cal’s cheerleader outfits remain No. 1 all-time seed. Classic.

Mark McCarter March 17, 20169:58 pm

If we follow the normal first-round pattern, with few upsets on the first day and second day goes crazy, there are some teams that oughta toss and turn tonight: Maryland (facing South Dakota State Friday), California (vs. Hawaii), Villanova (vs. UNC-Asheville), Xavier (vs. Weber State) and especially West Virginia, with coach Bob Huggins’ teams always enigmatic in the tourney, against Stephen F. Austin.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201610:02 pm

I covered the Tennessee game at Florida when Bruce Pearl sweated through his suit. He was a Sure commercial compared to poor Sean Miller tonight.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201610:07 pm

Four points for Arizona in first 4:36 of second half and 14 turnovers for the game. Coach oughta be sweaty.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201610:12 pm

Totally unscientific and off-top-of-my-head, but Mark’s Madness rankings of top 5 coaches in this tournament:

1. Coach K, Duke (used to, I could spell his name)

2. Roy Williams, North Carolina

3. Tom Izzo, Michigan State

4. Mark Few, Gonzaga

5. Gregg Marshall, Wichita State

Mark McCarter March 17, 201610:20 pm

Just got Twitter ad for a mattress saying, “A day spent in bed is well spent.” A day sitting in same chair watching hoops also well spent.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201610:30 pm

Got some votes for Bill Self (Kansas) Shaka Smart (Texas), Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) and Tom Crean (Indiana) as other best coaches. Good choices, no doubt. But I’ve been sold on Gregg Marshall since his Winthrop days. I know he’s been mid-major or smaller, but he has .718 winning percentage and already 400+ wins.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201610:32 pm

Just about to hit the 12-hour mark since my arrival. I think it’s finally time to reward myself with one of Pottsville, Pa.’s finest products. Ensuing typos should be forgiven.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201610:37 pm

Take all your 3-point shots and acrobatic dunks, but Wichita State just proved the prettiest play in basketball is still a quick back-door cut on the baseline, perfectly delivered bounce pass and layup.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201610:46 pm

Take all your 3-point shots and acrobatic dunks, but Wichita State just proved the prettiest play in basketball is still a quick back-door cut on the baseline, perfectly delivered bounce pass and layup.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201610:47 pm

Gonzaga takes 35-25 lead into halftime against Seton Hall in the night’s latest game. It will not hurt my feelings if it turns into a blowout and the clock seldom stops. It’s getting late.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201610:52 pm

Arizona saves face, a little bit, with late second-half rally but Wichita forces still another turnover — the 19th of the game for the Wildcats — and owns comfortable lead and all but clinches the win. Arizona down 9 with 29 seconds to go and timeout called.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201610:59 pm

Wichita State wraps up 65-55 win that wasn’t that close and Kentucky is two minutes from finishing its blowout over Stony Brook. That leaves us with two of the biggest east vs. west battles since Tupac vs. Notorious B.I.G., as Providence and Southern Cal go to the wire and Gonzaga-Seton Hall have second half to play.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:01 pm

The previous reference to Tupac vs. Notorious B.I.G. may be attributed to an even early reference to a glass of one Pottsville, Pa.’s finest product, or could merely be coincidental.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:04 pm

Heartbreaker for Southern Cal. Terrible defensive breakdown by Trojans gives Providence 70-69 win on little bunny shot; terrible USC free throw shooting down stretch, too.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:05 pm

Friars’ coach Ed Cooley just wrote the perfect headline for everybody in his postgame interview. The game-winner: “Divine Providence” he called it.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:24 pm

It’s been four years since Indiana and Kentucky played each other in hoops (in NCAA Regional semis in Atlanta) after a long, historic series. It’ll be good to see that renewed Saturday. UK leads series 35-25, including postseason. If Wikipedia can be believed, in 11 of those games one of the two was ranked No. 1 in the country at the time.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:31 pm

We’re headed toward a Utah-Gonzaga second round game. Utah’s best player is 7-footer Jacob Poeltl and Gonzaga can throw a front line of 7-1, 6-11 and 6-10 at you. This could be a throwback game headed our way Saturday.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:37 pm

UConn Huskies, Yale Bulldogs, Butler Bulldogs win and Gonzaga with bulldog as mascot winning. A trend? Just trivia? Or have I been sitting here at the same table for 13 hours?

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:40 pm

Before I forget it, thanks to all the staff at Buffalo Wild Wings for putting up with this Mark’s Madness for a sixth year, and for all the friends who showed up. One of the servers just said, “It’s gotta be tough to sit at a bar all day and not drink,” but I told her my typing would have badly suffered. Reminds me of the late Lewis Grizzard’s great quotation: “You don’t have to drink to be a good columnist, but it sure helps on the days you’re a bad columnist.”

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:44 pm

Thanks, mostly, to any of you who stopped by to follow this blog along the way today. I suspect most of you are sane enough to already be in bed, but the company from afar was much appreciated.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:47 pm

I think I’ll volunteer to live-blog like this from a bar during the political conventions this summer. All of us drinking heavily through those would be forgiven and understood.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:50 pm

An injury and a foul-out for Seton Hall here in crunch time and the Pirates are having some trouble with the thin air of Denver, it seems. Plus they’re shooting free throws like a blindfolded Shaquille O’Neal — 6-for-17.

Mark McCarter March 17, 201611:58 pm

Remember when Gonzaga was this unknown program 10-12 years ago and always made a bunch of noise in the NCAA Tournament and it essentially became the symbol for Cinderella teams every year? As the 11th seeded Zags wrap up a win over favored Seton Hall and I prepare to close the lid on my laptop to end Mark’s Madness 13 hours after this marathon started, I’ll leave you with this: It looks like Gonzaga may be this year’s Gonzaga.