- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 22, 2008

There were no buzzer-beaters or blowouts in Penn Quarter yesterday. But Bob Cohn was there, dutifully recording every moment.

Practices for the four remaining teams were closed to fans and the media yesterday, as per custom the day before NCAA tournament second-round games.

But behind a black curtain, there were loud voices, the rhythmic thump-thump-thump of basketballs striking hardwood and the squeak-squeak-squeak of sneakers. This is the universal language, the common denominator of pick-up games, church leagues and college basketball.

The first round of the NCAA tournament represents two of the greatest days and nights in sports. Four games, wall-to-wall ball. Mascots and pep bands and cheerleaders and the possibility of seeing something special, something memorable, like loveable little Belmont beating big, bad Duke, which almost happened Thursday night.

The next day is the nap after Thanksgiving dinner.

The media was mainly confined to the Wizards practice court, which has been converted into a carpeted workroom and interview area. Reporters were allowed into locker rooms, too, but only during specified times. There were snacks and beverages. Writers can subsist on ice cream, popcorn and pretzels, and many have.

Outside, downtown workers populated the sidewalks. Gone were those fans from faraway places with lots of disposable income wearing brightly colored sweatshirts. Many of them are gone for good, and it’s a little sad. The NCAA tournament is sheer Darwinism. One loss and you’re out. One and done. Board a plane and go home. See you next year, maybe.

For the survivors, it’s practice and wait around in their locker rooms as the media files in brandishing cameras and tape recorders. The players who are ignored by the interviewers talk quietly, fiddle with their equipment and watch the other games.

Today they play. Time to wake up.

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