The longest day
Posted: Monday April 03, 2000 02:50 PM
By Tim Crothers, Sports Illustrated
INDIANAPOLIS -- Ask any one of the hundreds of players who have endured The Wait and he will tell you that the time between Saturday's NCAA semifinals and the championship game on Monday night is the longest 48 hours of his career.
When Michigan State's Morris Peterson and Mateen Cleaves boarded the team bus on Saturday about an hour after the Spartans' victory over Wisconsin, both were thinking the same thing: Why can't we play the final tonight? The two old friends from Flint, Mich., harked back longingly to the AAU days when they played a tournament game, took a water break and played again.
Later that night things got so slow that the entire Spartans team visited Cleaves' mother, Frances, in her hotel room to sing her Happy Birthday.
Other than some film study, scouting reports and brief shootarounds at the RCA Dome, the only scheduled event for each team on Sunday was a 90-minute interview session with the press, which is nobody's idea of a good time. At the end of his inquisition, Florida's Teddy Dupay summed up everybody's feelings when he said, "I'm all out of answers. Really, is there any question that hasn't been asked?" That was the last one.
On Sunday night the Spartans mingled with family and friends in the hotel lobby and staged a walk-through in one of the ballrooms. Meanwhile, some the Gators indulged in what has become the ultimate pacifier for the modern college athlete: the video game. Denied any real basketball for the day, the Gators got their hoops fix on SEGA.
According to the NCAA and the Old Testament, the Sabbath is supposed to be a day of rest. Alas, on the eve of the national title game, who can sleep? If these guys thought Sunday was long, I'm told that the wait for Monday's 9:18 p.m. ET tip feels even longer.
Tim Crothers is a Sports Illustrated senior writer. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the writer.